Whither Weather?

I like the National Weather Service‘s PDA-enabled forecast pages so much that I recently wrote an email to the webmaster. I told her how impressed I am that the NWS uses such cutting-edge technologies like RSS feeds, DVB broadcasts, and PDA-sized pages to get the forecast into the hands of the public. The webmaster wrote back, thanking me for noticing and basically saying I made her day.

As much as I love to take digs at the government, there are some things it does outstandingly well. One of these things is our public weather forecasting. I belive the United States has one of the finest meterological services on the planet. Hurricanes and other disasters which might otherwise claim thousands of lives are easily avoided through the professionalism, technology, and diligence of the National Weather Service (and its network of weather spotters).

So I was quite perplexed to understand how Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) could sponsor a bill which would prohibit the weather service from issuing public forecast data. Of course, a little more digging reveals that Pennsylvania is home to AccuWeather, which hopes to make you pay for the same data your taxes have already bought through the NWS.

“It is not an easy prospect for a business to attract advertisers, subscribers or investors when the government is providing similar products and services for free,” Santorum said.

The National Weather Service predates AccuWeather by about, oh, a hundred years. If AccuWeather can’t compete, it should have picked another business.

Can you believe any of this? Santorum is a loser. If the people of Pennsylvania have any shame, they’ll send him packing next year.

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