A proposed budget cut from congress could diminish the forecasting ability of the National Weather Service.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has been extremely busy this spring as they deal with wildfires, blizzards, flooding, and record tornado outbreaks.
The forecasts they provide have kept many out of danger, but this valuable information could soon become compromised.
Many agencies including the NWS are on the chopping block this year as congress tries to trim down the budget.
The NWS is sounding the alarm after a proposed 30 percent cut has shown up on their radar which would force them to eliminate tools they use to observe and forecast the weather.
"That data is important. It not only what we look at, it’s the models use to update themselves every 6 to 12 hours," says Steven Nelson, Science and Operations Officer at the NWS Peachtree City office.
Meteorologists record temperature, wind, and moisture on land, sea, and air to create weather models. These models allow forecasters to see what Mother Nature is going to do next.
Eliminating these observations would blur their vision.
"A decrease in the accuracy of the forecast and the quality of the forecast. The frequency may still be there be but they might not be as accurate from these computer models," says Nelson.
Even the slightest change in accuracy would inevitably reverse progress made in forecasting.
"It could make the difference where someone gets snow or rain, or rain or thunderstorms, or thunderstorms or severe storms. Those small details matter," says Nelson.
Small details could become monstrous problems during hurricane season. Weather satellites are the only eye on the tropics. Failure to repair or replace them would cause blind spots.
Running on low data isn't the only problem the NWS may be dealing with. Talk of staff cuts and furloughs are hanging in the air.
"If there were some shortage of staff i think it would have to be done in a very safe way. The Weather Service is going to try very had to keep safety a priority,"says Nelson.
Speculators have tossed around even more extreme measures.
Looming budget cuts could mean temporary closings for the Peachtree City Office which could put the public in danger during severe weather events.
This would leave a sister office forecasting for a wider area, causing strain during event such as the latest tornado outbreak when multiple states were being impacted.
"It's hard to put a price tag on a human life or making accurate forecast and warnings. You don't really recognize the cost until something goes wrong'" says Nelson.
The Weather Service is currently running at normal levels after President Obama signed a resolution back in April that would hold any changes until after the 2011 fiscal year.