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The Future of Free Weather Data on the Internet 312

Posted by michael
from the looks-like-rain dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The National Weather Service wants to update a 1991 policy that limits what data it can put on the Internet. The proposed new policy makes putting free data on the Internet official. The Private Weather Sector wants NWS to provide its new digital forecasts only in specialized data formats and would like NWS to shut down new XML data feeds. Barry Myers (MS Word doc), president of Accuweather wants you to have pay before using Kweather and other similar tools. Myers is asking friends to comment against the new NWS policy by June 30. Should we have to pay twice to get weather forecasts?"
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The Future of Free Weather Data on the Internet

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  • It should be free (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bobhagopian (681765) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:10AM (#9541418)
    Nobody should ever have to pay for a service which provides the same information as a quick look out the window does. And if they do charge something for it, the vast majority of people *will not* pay.
  • Who pays for it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mazem (789015) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:10AM (#9541421)
    Who pays for the National Weather Service? If it is taxpayer money then setting up a pay-service on the internet seems counter-intuitive.
    • by Gabrill (556503)
      Does the weather information come under the freedom of information act? Can that act be used to thwart this scheme?
    • taxpayers (Score:4, Insightful)

      by spacepimp (664856) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:49AM (#9541743) Homepage
      if it is paid for by taxpayers monies, then it should be freely accessible.. why limit it to people who want a business model off of it. if it devalues their business model, so be it they were only pimping on something we already paid for. their content wasnt theirs to begin with.
    • Be assured, this is all part of a plan to privatise the weather services. Big companies want your money and gaining a monopoly over services and goods you need is the best way to get it.
    • Re:Who pays for it? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tdemark (512406) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:57AM (#9542097) Homepage
      For reasons of commerce, national security, and personal safety, NOAA must gather significant amounts of weather data. Furthermore, to ensure that products like severe weather statements can be issued accurately, the organization must provide data such as current conditions and forecasts.

      An artificial scarcity of data does nothing to help the people paying for it via their taxes. It only serves to help the bottom lines of a few large corporations whose only responsibilities are to themselves, not the citizens of the United States.

      The services that are currently "experimental" or whose ultimate availability is unknown due to pressure from certain members of the Commercial Weather Industry should become permanently and freely available to anyone wishing access to it.

      Back when data dissemination costs were high, it made sense to limit the NWS role in giving data to the public. By allowing only a few organizations to have access to the data and allowing them to sell it, those organization would pay the rather high costs to ensure the data was, in fact, available.

      However, now that communication costs are so low, such a method makes no sense.

      A recent letter from Barry Myers to members of the Commercial Weather Industry pleading for them to come out against the NWS Partnership Policy, he stated:

      "Industries grow where risk is controllable or predictable. The present path of the NWS- controlled federal policy introduces greater risk to the private sector. Not less."

      In this case, he is partially right.

      However, the risk he is actually talking about is the ability for large commercial weather organizations to maintain a stranglehold on the sector.

      You see, the products that NOAA currently offer, themselves, pose no threat to AccuWeather or other large organizations. It is just data, and most people don't want to look at coded data. They want an end product.

      By allowing data to flow freely to the public, the NWS ENCOURAGES competition to the incumbents. Barriers that prevented bright entrepreneurs from pushing new services are greatly reduced and a new era of value-added products will be born.

      To this end, I see no alternative but for NOAA to provide the services it currently does in a permanent, free fashion as well as to develop other offerings that benefit the taxpayers as it sees fit.
  • If this ever happens, I estimate it would take about 1 week for a group to appear, advocating 'open source' weather data collection, another week for some client/server software to be written, and about 3 months for effectively global weather data collection.
    • by klmth (451037) <mkoivi3@unix.saunalahti.fi> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:51AM (#9541512) Homepage Journal
      Look, this is not going to happen for a simple reason: the general public doesn't sit on a metric assload of various measurment instruments.
      • the general public doesn't sit on a metric assload of various measurment instruments.

        Not that it is in any way a replacement for a government service, but The Weather Undergound [underground.org.hk] of Hong Kong, and presumably affiliated groups [wunderground.com], do have their own weather stations, though most of their data is from government observatories. But I think witout weather satellite photos, no one can conme anywhere near current state-of-the-art.

    • Well, as a former pilot, I would be a bit concerned about the unreported, open source sonde collecting upper air data.

      As for the public not sitting on a metric buttload of weather measuring gear, they weren't sitting on a metric buttload of WiFi gear at first either. If local measurement ever went open source, I suspect you'd see a lot of measuring equipment show up on the market.
    • I would tend to agree with what you are saying. So perhaps they are shooting themselve in the foot with this preposal of theirs.

      'Open Source' weather collection would give a more accurate picture of statistics. If there are a few closed weather centers with high accuracy equipment to say a few hundred thousand people contributing to and open system. The system with more people even though running with 'poorer' equipment, would give a better overview, as the results of weather statistics is that of averages
    • by mumblestheclown (569987) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:11AM (#9541654)
      Bullshit.

      Mod parent down.

      I am a pilot who flies in the USA and in Europe. In the USA, weather information is free. In Europe, it is not. NO open source weather network has sprung up in europe. The TV news provides some information, but very very little of interest to pilots.

      The thing is, given all the airports already in place who could benefit from this (that is to say, a distributed set of reporting stations), you'd think that your sort of community network would just spring up. Well, it hasn't and won't. Why? Because the competitive market has turned out to be a pretty efficient mechanism for bringing weather data to those who need it.

  • Should be free. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dj245 (732906) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:15AM (#9541437) Homepage
    We all pay taxes (OK maybe not all of us) that support things like weather sattelites, weather baloons, remote weather stations, etc. This is where the majority of the weather data comes from, and the funding comes from taxpayers ultimately. The NWS is a government agency. They compile the data from the balloons, stations, and sattelites, and make forecasts and charts and maps and graphs. Mariners, in particular, get a lot of data from the NWS directly and indirectly.

    On the other hand, Accuweather is a commercial venture designed to profit by delivering weather content to television studios and radio stations. They own no balloons nor weather stations nor sattelites. Why should we have to pay them anything? They only want to diversify their grip on the nutsack of private weather.

    • by BDew (202321)
      Because the government should not compete with the private sector. It's a simple enough principle, if there's something that the private sector is willing to do for-profit, then the government simply should not compete with them. Unless you want the government to also get into the software development business. Or the car making business. Or any other private venture.

      Most of the posts also miss the business model. The government collects the raw data, and that is made freely available. What Accuweath
      • Re:Should be free. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blakestah (91866)
        It might be a simple principle to George Bush.

        But there are, currently, dozens and dozens of small weather forecasting niches. People do weather forecasting for hang-gliding, or surfing, or wind-surfing, and do this by interpreting available NWS data.

        If the change in enacted, almost all of these small-time forecasters will go away. Anyone who wants weather information will be able to get it, either by paying accuweather, or by writing their own tools to interpret the freely available raw data. I have writ
        • Re:Should be free. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sjames (1099)

          Agreed. I am all for Accuweather and others using freely available data to produce forecasts suitable for various consumers. If they are adding substantial value, they will have no problems staying in business.

          The fact that they believe freely available data will kill their business model makes me wonder if THEY believe that they add substantial value!

          If they're not doing anything that can't be managed by any enthusiastic ameture with an internet connection and a bit of (possibly Free) software, they SH

      • Horseshit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Croaker (10633) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @11:36AM (#9543007)
        if there's something that the private sector is willing to do for-profit, then the government simply should not compete with them.

        Absolutist Libertarian drivel. You mean I can start up any business that dies something the government does, and then force the government not to do it anymore? So, if I start a business of printing IRS tax forms, and want to charge $50/ea. for 1040 forms, I can forc the IRS to stop printing and distributing them free?

        Why not let the government do the things it can do efficiently, and for the greater good, and let the private sector worry about the things it can do most efficiently? Free weather data is a huge benefit to all... like a (mostly) free road system. Why privatize it just so someone can extract extra money out of people?

        Most of the posts also miss the business model. The government collects the raw data, and that is made freely available. What Accuweather and the like do is turn that raw data into value-added products like maps with pretty colors, icons, etc. They translate the science into a form that average people understand.

        No one missed the business model. That Accuweather adds value by interpreting data doesn't perclude other individuals from getting the data the National Weather Service collects and doing the same thing for free. That's what the Accurweather people are asking for... a ban on the free flow of information. They want to privatize this public knowledge under lock and key, so they and they alone can profit from it. People aren't looking to shut down Accuweather... they are just asking for the same priviledge that Accuweather has.

        A value-added business model is perfectly fine. But if you cannot make a profit off of a freely available resource that you add value to, then you should find another business model, not try to privatize the free resource.

        Your argument that they don't hold the entire system so they shouldn't hold any of it doesn't make sense. Otherwise the analogy could be extended like this: Microsoft owns Windows, so other complanies shouldn't write software for it. Apple owns the OS AND the hardware, so other companies shouldn't write software for it. These are not sentiments often found on /. Why should weather forecasting be any different?

        Bogus analogy. Microsoft and Apple own their platforms. And yes, as owners of those platforms, they could close them to outside developers. Windows and OS X systems are open in that anyone can develop software for them. Apple and Microsoft know that if they tried to control the platforms to that level, they'd be sunk, because there's no way for them to develop all of the software people would want on a PC. The market wouldn't tolerate it.

        Have you tried to develop software for a the PS2, Game Cube, Xbox, or other gaming platform? Those aren't open systems. You have to get the developers kits from the owners of those systems. Do you see the /. crowd howling about that all day?

        Accuweather doesn't own the data collected by the national weather service. They have no part in creating that data. Closing the data to the general public because Accuweather wants to protect its business interests would be like Red Hat closing the source to Linux because they want to protect their revenue stream.

      • Re:Should be free. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by UnrepentantHarlequin (766870) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @01:01PM (#9543821)
        Because the government should not compete with the private sector. It's a simple enough principle, if there's something that the private sector is willing to do for-profit, then the government simply should not compete with them.

        When Accu-Weather establishes their own network of thousands of automated and manned data collection stations, when they launch their own weather satellites, when they buy some of the world's fastest supercomputers and write global weather modelling software for them, when they set up hundreds of radar stations, and when they get a time machine to gather weather records from a hundred years before the company was founded, then they might have the right to deny information critical to life, safety, and livelihood to anyone other than their paying customers.

        But since we, the taxpayers, own all of that, no private company -- not Accu-Weather, not anyone -- has the right to restrict the benefits of those taxpayer-owned resources to themselves.

        Accu-Weather was not the first private weather company. If a system such as they want, where some or all data is limited to distribution solely to existing corporations, then Accu-Weather would never have been born. A grad student named Joel Myers wouldn't have had access to the data he needed to start making forecasts for local ski areas, and eventually expand that to a worldwide weather service. Of course, that scenario is exactly in Accu-Weather's best interest. Remember, while it's in our interest, as consumers, to have open competition in any given market and a wide array of choices, it is in the interest of the companies in that market to reduce competition and to raise the highest possible barriers to entry into that market, to protect their own position. That's what this is all about.
      • Bullshit. Private companies should not have a monopoly on information that was collected and processed using taxpayers money. The only thing these private 'weather' companies do is re-distribute publicly funded information.

        Now that technology makes is very cheap for the government to distribute this information the NATURAL free market result is that the private weather companies die. They no longer have a valuable service to provide.

        If these private weather companies had been the ones investing in weathe

        • Re:Should be free. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DoraLives (622001)
          Bullshit. Private companies should not have a monopoly on information that was collected and processed using taxpayers money.

          Amen, brother!

          Below, my own unworthy letter to the NWS regarding the proposed policy, complete with cc's.

          As a SERVICE, subsidized by government tax revenue, the NWS should provide all raw and processed data that it generates, to the public for no additional charge above and beyond the original tax revenue that was collected.

          Paying for my weather twice, in the form of having to pay

    • Re:Should be free. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drooling-dog (189103)
      Don't forget the most important distinction between the NWS and Accuweather: Only one of them can legally contribute to political campaigns. This, and not any quest for "efficiency," is the real engine behind privatization.
  • PC weather tools (Score:3, Informative)

    by dj245 (732906) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:20AM (#9541451) Homepage
    Barry Myers (MS Word doc), president of Accuweather wants you to have pay before using Kweather and other similar tools.

    Are there any good non-adware PC weather tools? Being a true geek, I sometimes don't look out a window for days at a time. Besides the infamous Weatherbug [pchell.com], what else is there?

    • Re:PC weather tools (Score:3, Informative)

      by Yaa 101 (664725)
      Yes there is,

      The weather module of GKrellM. http://web.wt.net/~billw/gkrellm/gkrellm.html

      btw. could those stealing middlemen stop nagging that their stealing businessmodel stops working.
      If they had setup devices of their own and had financed all self instead of piggybacking on the Government weather services that are paid by us, not them.
    • If you use trillian there are several plugins available. But being a plug in, it requires trillian pro. I'd recommend paying for it though, as it is a good app, and the staff is pretty prompt about patches whenever a gateway protocol changes.
    • Re:PC weather tools (Score:2, Informative)

      by Dacotah (710798)
      I use Weather Watcher from http://www.singerscreations.com/. Adware free and Spyware free, the total download is just 1.48Mb and is freeware. I liked it so much I gave him a donation. It is somewhat like Weatherbug without all the bloat and crap. KWeather for KDE would be similiar to Wx Watcher.
  • by Genda (560240) <marietNO@SPAMgot.net> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:22AM (#9541456) Journal
    This is so simple... Either the weather information we pay for through our taxes is provoded to the public for free... or Accuweather can foot the entire bill for weather collection and charge whatever it see's as a fair market price for the service. I would just as happily see my tax dollars returned to me, and watch the weather on the evening news, or buy a small personal weather station.

    Genda
  • by miyako (632510) <miyako.gmail@com> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:23AM (#9541458) Homepage Journal
    I think having free weather information is not only a good thing, it could save lives. I live in the midwest, where for a few months a year (tornado season), you can really be taking your ass in your hands if you don't keep up with the weather. I'm sure it's the same in other regions of the country with various other weather patterns (hurricanes in the south-east, snow storms in the north and north east).
    I don't own a TV to be able to watch the weather on the local news, (thought I do have a weather radio), and for people like me, it can really be a good thing to have forwarning.
    All that aside, this guy sounds like a real asshat because, while I could understand if the companies were doing any work, them wanting to make money, his complaint seems to be "Hey, don't just publish this information in a way anyone can get it for free, obfuscate it first so that we have a product to sell."
    Of course, if all else fails you can easily tell the weather with just a rock and a string. First tie the rock to the string then hang it outside from a tree branch. When you want to know what the weather is outside, just look at the rock. If the rock is wet it's raining, if the rock is white it's snowing, if the rock is easy to see it's sunny, if the rock is hard to see it's cloudy. If the string is not perpendicular to the tree branch, it's windy. And if the rock is missing, tornado.
  • by CdBee (742846) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:28AM (#9541466)
    It's my understanding that weather-satellite transmissions aren't encrypted and can be picked up by anyone, this certainly used to be the case.

    So, write a Distributed Computing Client which downloads weather-satellite data from a handful of sat-dish-connected servers and predicts the weather. You'd need a great many clients doing the basic data-processing and a lot of higher-level nodes which collate the information, but in theory you could use weather satellites from all over the globe instead of just the ones your domestic weather service relies on... and probably build a bigger picture of the weather-system.

    We slashdotters always say Data should be free, how could it be more free than if we generate it ourselves?
    • No thank you (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jesterzog (189797)

      So, write a Distributed Computing Client which downloads weather-satellite data from a handful of sat-dish-connected servers and predicts the weather.

      I don't think so. If it were that easy then you could guarantee that it'd be being done already. You could argue for a distributed client and in some way it might be useful. But more of a priority should be figuring out how to design a system that's actually intelligent enough both to make reliable predictions and trustworthy judgement calls about th

    • by kalidasa (577403) * on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:14AM (#9541658) Journal

      What makes you think weather satellite transmissions would remain unencrypted if the weather industry lobbyists succeed in preventing the NWS from providing direct free weather information over the internet? These folks have built their industry out of packaging and distributing free government data, and now that new technologies have made distribution cheap enough for the government to provide the data directly to the taxpayer, they realize the free ride is over. So do they decide to offer new value-added services to maintain their audience? No, they want to surpress the competition.

      Always keep this in mind when you think about free markets: free markets are the result of an equilibrium of self-interest. No company in a market acts in the best interests of the market - their urge is always to attempt to limit the market to serve only their own interests. When each competitor's interests serve to cancel out the interests of other competitors, free markets are self-correcting and flourish. But when limiting the market is in the best interests of ALL existing competitors, those competitors will act in cooperation to suppress the free market. That's why free markets don't work in a true anarchy - because in an absolutely free market the common interest of all factors in an industry will lead to the development of a cartel, and competition will tend to be limited to a stable equilibrium (until one competitor gains an advantage that allows them to wipe out the rest of the cartel and establish a monopoly).

    • yup. I recieve the images from NOAA-17 all the time.

      makes it great for when you are camping and need to know upcoming cloud patterns heading your way and you dont have net access.

      there are many more NOAA sattelites, but NOAA-17 is the newest and can be easily recieved on a handheld reciever without any trouble.
  • Won't Happen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by artlu (265391) <artlu@[ ]lu.net ['art' in gap]> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:28AM (#9541469) Homepage Journal
    The NWS is pretty hardup for cash right now in order to waste money on developing Internet standards. This is probably a vapor article, which won't effect any of our little applications anyway. I use "WeatherPop" for the mac. It sits in the menu bar real nice and does not annoy me, which is the most important factor ;).

    GroupShares Inc. [groupshares.com] - A Free Online Investment Community
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:29AM (#9541471)
    Why use web based Weather feeds when you can pick the data off the satellite's directly???

    Connect a 137-138MHz FM communications receiver or scanner to your soundcard and get colour images directly from overhead weather satellites. You can either build your own like I did or just buy a receiver.

    For an explanation try:
    http://www.emgola.cz/www_fa/meteosat_englisc h_how. html

    and for a great tool: http://www.wxtoimg.com
  • Middlemen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Tyro (247333) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:33AM (#9541475)
    Sounds to me as if these companies want the government to sanction their status as middleman brokers of weather information, all at the public's expense.

    Sorry, but I don't agree. If I'm not mistaken, the NWS exists on public funds; the info should be public also.

    Besides, weather can make an actual life-and-death difference in some scenarios... just ask any sailor or pilot. Also, how about tornado warnings and such... will you have to pay to get those as well? I'd like to see them try to extract payment for such life-saving info, and watch the avalance of negative public outcry... you'd be more popular if you kicked a puppy.

    • by benstrange (749333) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:53AM (#9541513)
      "In order to protect the competitive nature of the privately-owned media, direct NWS participation with the radio and television media should be limited to those situations requiring urgent public action as in the case of severe or extreme weather and flooding or education and preparedness activities." [Proposed for repeal by the NWS].

      I assume this means the NWS is allowed to tell people about impending doom, but nothing else. It follows, I suppose, that the proposed for repeal bit means they want to be allowed to tell people more than this. I have to admit I don't really understand the situation, not being in the US.

      Besides, much simpler in England. If it's not already raining, it soon will be. Prepare accordingly.
      • Re:Middlemen (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cluckshot (658931) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:51AM (#9541749)

        I made an observation about the weather and its importance to daily life around the world one day when I tried to discuss the weather with the locals in the Philippines. (EH?) was the response. It never occurred to them that paying much attention to the weather was important.

        They get weather there and some times quite severe, but I found that the reason was simple. They knew that certain days of the year it would be dry others wet and stormy. If the wind was blowing a certain direction at a certain time of the year, it told them what the weather was.

        I suppose this is an over simplification but simply stated most of the world gets weather by the calender and by location. Weather in most of the world is pretty much boring. NORTH AMERICA and most specifically the Central Mississippi River Valley gets some pretty amazing weather. It is neither predictable by time of the year nor is it something that you can know by location. You cannot know it by wind direction and you cannot know it by other current conditions. It can bet amazingly dangerous or troublesome.

        Rain in this region of the USA and southern Canada can be accompanied by most dangerous condtions. Rain in this area rains Fertilizer as well (Nitrate) which is natural in origin. As such weather is to those of us living in that area a pretty important thing. To the rest of the human race, they have a hard time understanding our preoccupation with it.

        The logic of allowing US Government Weather Forcasting to be open to the public is an American Construct. It stems from our understanding that WE own our government. This is counter to the logic for most of the rest of the world. We are despite accusations to the contrary an Anti-Colonial force. The Colonial forces want to reoccupy our land and they are attempting to upset the logic so that they can force the middle men into weather just as they do in Europe and Asia. They are attempting to make everything even that which we have already bought and paid for into property we have to pay rent on. This is what the discussion is about.

        The NWS for basic Info has a lot more to add to the forecast stuff than you might think. If you want to see my current conditions [noaa.gov] here they are. Clicking on the side links can give you a hint of the level of data that we expect for free.

  • Pointless (Score:2, Insightful)

    The government collects weather data anyway-it has to, for shipping, flights, disaster prediction, military uses etc. If the taxpayer's already paying for it, why shouldn't they get it for free on the internet?
  • Good weather data is frequently a matter of life or death in many fields, it's that simple. Restriction for commercial gain cannot be sanctioned by any government that desires to avoid the pitchforks of public fury.

    In case this doesn't seem odd to you, consider your insurance options if forecast trends become a matter of "commercial in confidence" and you didn't prepare for that sudden storm, to name one example. Or, if you're a private pilot, perhaps an ultralight enthusiast, consider the expense of your

  • by B747SP (179471) <slashdot@selfabusedelephant.com> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:38AM (#9541483)
    The Austraian Bureau of Meteorology had this little dilemma with it's Weather RADAR [bom.gov.au] product several years ago. They apparently had a very small number (as in less than 20) of customers who paid rather a lot of money for access to the service. Someone wised up and figured out that the cost of collecting the money from such a small customer base wasn't cost effective, so they opened the product to all and sundry.

    It's a really really useful tool. I use it at least a couple of times a week - basically anytime the weather seems a bit sus and I need to decide if to do a bolt from the office on my bike before a storm front hits, or to wait until it passes. The last four images thing lets you get a feel for which way the weather is blowing, etc, etc.

    On Tuesday nights, when the Sydney Knights [yahoo.com] do their Tuesday Night Ride (TNR), we're all hitting the bom.gov.au site to see what the weather is looking like. If you ride a motorcycle and live in Sydney, Australia then you need to come on a TNR!.

    Now Australia didn't seem to have the problem with the commercial weather services wanting to continue to charge customers for something that they already paid the government for... that's a whole new ball game. Still, I'm all for the gummint opening up public access to weather data in any jurisdiction - it's a really really really good thing. Let the snake oil sellers find a new flavour of snake oil - I've heard that the penis enlargement pill market is a good one.

  • "Providing me with a carbon copy I will take it as both notification that you have sent the letter and your consent to circulate copies as might be appropriate. If you click at the end of each email address above and press the space bar, they should activate as a link."

    Um, that does nothing but put a space in the hyperlink. You have to hold down ctrl then click. Opps.

    Look here for a list of NWS contacts: http://www.stormready.noaa.gov/contact.htm. It has a name, address, phone and email for each offic
    • pressing space works in Office 2000, I guess they changed the feature.

      To: fairweather@noaa.gov
      CC: myersb@accuweather.com
      "I am in favor of open-to-all weather data, on the internet, in standard formats such as XML. I am for the new proposed NWS policy, and I am against the position of Accuweather's president Barry Myers. But who cares, I'm just a citizen."

      don't forget to send it to the official comments address in addition to cc'ing Mr. Friendly.
  • by hadesan (664029) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:40AM (#9541490)
    We the people, pay for the National Weather Service in the form of our tax dollars (2003 $800M, 2004 $824M). "The National Weather Service provides weather, hydrologic and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters and oceans." (blurb ripped from Washington Technology.com [washingtontechnology.com])

    I see no reason that we should have to pay for Accuweather to make a pretty graphic or the like. By opening up the data on the Internet you provide researchers, hobbyists, and tinkerers with a means to get up-to-date and accurate weather information easily as well as historical data.

    NWS also talks about their Information Quality [noaa.gov] guidelines here - detailing their information and what is available.

    Who knows maybe someone will develop a Weather@Home model which runs on the same principle as SETI@Home. It would be pretty cool to start doing climate models outside of the governments and universties Research labs...

    • by surprise_audit (575743) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:46AM (#9541606)
      Who knows maybe someone will develop a Weather@Home model which runs on the same principle as SETI@Home.

      You mean,like these guys?

      http://www.climateprediction.net/index.php

      What is climateprediction.net? Climateprediction.net is the largest experiment to try and produce a forecast of the climate in the 21st century. To do this, we need people around the world to give us time on their computers - time when they have their computers switched on, but are not using them to their full capacity.

  • .doc as html (Score:5, Informative)

    by dncsky1530 (711564) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:43AM (#9541492) Homepage
    for those who dont feel like viewing the .doc file, heres the html version [66.102.7.104]
  • by unoengborg (209251) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:45AM (#9541499) Homepage
    As long as I can't order the weather I like where I am from these weather service companies its not worth paying for.

  • How about someone give us a rational, educated that comment we can copy and paste into the comment web page that supports this new proposal?
    • Please don't do this. What is needed is for individuals to really study the issue, show that you have more than one or two brain cells, and intelligently explain why you may support/not support the new policy changes, and potentially suggest new directions to look at with this.

      There are many very intelligent individuals here on /. of a very diverse background. What is needed here is not raw activism of the typical D.C. type, but rather people from outside the "weather" industry that can thoughtfully expl
  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:16AM (#9541552)
    I think we *definitely* need to follow Mr. Myers advice and send our comments to the email addresses he gives. Oh, and be sure to cc: him. He did ask, after all...

    Chris Mattern
  • by aroobie (130077) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:26AM (#9541569) Homepage
    We pay for the IRS but can't do business with it on the Internet without paying a third party. This letter is simply wanting the same setup for weather companies that already exist for tax software companies. Just as a side note, I work with a good bit of weather software and I can assure you that the only data we get for free, from any source, are radar images that our doppler radar provides. Since all commercial users (I know of) already pay, this sounds like Accuweather wants individual user's cash. I have seen demos of all the major commercial weather software withiin the last 3 months (looking to upgrade our current software) including Accuweather and this may be a last ditch effort for Accuweather. Other weather software companies are showing advanced modeling, data presentation, and other features as the sellling point not what they can charge for the raw data. At least two other weather software companies did not even care where you got the raw data. I have seen one that actually used the xml data from NWS and used the no data charge as a selling point.

    I agree with others here, i.e. Personal use of NWS data have already been paid for and should not fall into the IRS/3rd party software business model.
  • by vk2tds (175334)
    CWOP is the Citizen Weather Observation Programme, a part of NOAA. You can find the data on http://www.wxqa.com/ [wxqa.com] all about this data. The problem for the private weather industry is that all this data is freely available, and is not able to be restricted in availability thanks to the infrastructure...

    With CWOP, all the data is sent to http://www.findu.com/ [findu.com] where anyone can retrieve the data.

    Weather data is free this way, thanks to the support of Ham Radio operators internet infrastructure.

    Darryl Smith, V
  • An accuweather boycott has been created at Boycott City [boycottcity.org]. However, it may take 24 hours before the boycott is officially added to the list and you can join. If you want to join, send yourself a reminder message to visit the site tomorrow.

    This is my first experiment with such a system. The primary value of such an online boycott is that people can search to find out if people are boycotting a company - and why - before doing business with a company. As an added bonus, when you join a boycott it shows

  • by barks (640793)
    I remember scheming and dreaming a project once upon a time and trying to look for a database that contained various dates and the weather data conditions for that day.

    Found a free archive on Environment Canada [ec.gc.ca] that does just that for all of Canada.
  • by Chromal (56550) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:46AM (#9541605) Homepage
    Interestingly, we have Accu-Weather spearheading an attempt to make the data formats put out by NOAA less accessible to non-meteorologists. Much of this data is readily available in obscure meteorological data formats like the dense GRIB-format 5-dimensional GFS model output and the equally obscure METAR surface obs format (whose byzantine structure dates back to the 1940s when observations were distributed codified and via teletype).

    Make no mistake about it-- all of this data is publically available via FTP, or C-band satellite downlink (aka NOAAPORT). What the leader of the industry consortium (which does not represent all meteo firms by a long shot) is apparently protesting is NOAA putting out data in a modern format that ANYONE, not just meteorologists, may be expected to work with. He is, perhaps, upset with the notion that in this day and age of realtime data exchange on the Internet, it really doesn't take a BS in meterology and a publisher like a newspaper, TV station, or radio station to get the weather from the government to the people-- his business's model, acting as an interpreter that (for a fee) translates the data produced by the National Weather Service into something the public understands-- this model of business is becoming incresingly obsolete.

    Any protests about NOAA supporting new and more accessible formats is a cynical cry for business or industry protectionism, nothing more. Which is a shame-- there is plenty of room for innovation in the weather industry-- niche forecasts specialized for markets where small-scale accuracy matters (like the agricultural and power industries), or more advanced and interactive web-based tools (like The Weather Underground's NEXRAD interface) can innovate the way the public look at weather data.

    Support innovation, not protectionism!
    • No doubt a great deal of his concern is also over having to re-write a bunch of their application code to accomodate the new formats, in addition to lowering the level of obscure knowledge future competition needs to succeed.

      Basically, there is no benefit to updating the formats for old companies like Accu-Weather, thus it's not surprising they would oppose the change. Newer/future businesses, by contrast, will welcome it, as it eases the data-acquisition and interpretation process...not to mention the fa
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:46AM (#9541607)
    Bending to corporate pressure, The United States government has enstated a mandatory "horizontal blinder" initative. Any person within the United States, it's territories and occupied lands will no longer be allowed to look up or down in order to make judgements about the weather. Any limbs or joints that react to brewing storms will be confiscated.
  • ...here is a link to the Word Document [weatherindustry.org] being used by the Private Weather Sector to give details about where/how to lobby to NOAA.

    Instead of bemoaning the state of the public sector how about actually doing something about it and actively lobby the people in power to keep this free?
  • Weather Display (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sobinz (702278)
    I'm in the navy stationed in guam. With the exception of typhoons we have almost no (very consistant) weather. Out of boredom I rigged up a pretty neat setup. I bought a serial, text-only 4 by 20 character LCD display. I wrote a program that every 5 minutes parses weather.com to determing the description of the weather, and temperature in Bat cave NC and writes it to the display. I can watch the temperatures change with the seasons from here in guam. It also displays a continuous(10 times a second) up
  • by PeeAitchPee (712652) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:14AM (#9541657)
    Check out HAMWeather [hamweather.com] if you haven't already. It's been around for years and it's essentially a set of scripts which allow you to set up your own AccuWeather or weather.com -type site. It's also got a lot of other additional features like mapping and "weather sticker" creation (dynamically creating a small image with a location's name, current conditions and a little icon representing the current conditions). I've been using it for about two years and while it's not rocket science, I've found it to be a very useful, time-saving tool. The scripts are available in Perl, ASP, and PHP.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:20AM (#9541668) Homepage
    Barry Myers (MS Word doc), president of Accuweather wants you to have pay before using Kweather and other similar tools.

    fine. then the US government needs to increase Commercial use of NOAA weather data fees by 100 fold. Little Barry, in his childish hissy fit, fails to realize that the NOAA weather data is the property of the United States Citizens and Government... So let's appease him. Anyone want to intorduce legislation that any commercial use of NOAA data has higher fees and 20% of all profit made from said data must be paid back to help fund NOAA and other government weather research.

    It's high time as americans we got off our lazy asses and start smacking around childish losers like Barry and other Company officials that while about people getting something that they pay for through taxes. do what you can to introduce new legislation to "bitch slap" these morons. if worded right it would go through in a heartbeat as it would be a new significan source of income and congresscritters can't turn their back on money.

    some of the mapping companies tried this about 5 years ago with the USGS release of their tigerline data maps. they were whining that it would undermine their business and other equally stupid erasons for keeping the data OUT of the public's hands. but they still wanted the free access for themselves.

  • by Alsee (515537) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:23AM (#9541675) Homepage
    Be sure to submit a comment through ths page. [noaa.gov]
    Here's the comment I submitted:

    As a government agency, the purpose of the NOAA is to serve the public. Data which has been generated or collected using tax dollars belongs to the public and should be freely available to the public.

    Information provides the greatest benefit when it is freely available and most widely utilized.

    Thus far the NOAA has had a "non-compete" policy. I have no doubt the NOAA is receiving pressure from special interests to maintain that policy and to withhold data from the public. Business is a good and valuable thing when it provides the public with needed services, however the government should NOT be protecting unneeded redundant services at the direct expense and detriment of the public. The government should not be creating an artificial scarcity of information. The public should not have to pay a second time for information it has already obtained through tax dollars.


    -
  • What's this weather thing everyone keeps talking about? It's day when the lights are on. It's night when the lights are off. If you hear thunder, turn off your computer. ... don't tell me you guys actually go outside and stuff.
  • Non-Compete (Score:2, Interesting)

    by njk (75938)
    Although I agree with the general position in most of these replies there are some subtle rationals behind the NWS policy.

    The NWS neither had the funds, nor the infrastructure, to provide weather data to the widest audience possible so they asked the private sector to accomplish this for them (think 25 years ago). The private sector (5 companies Kavoris, Unisys, ..) were granted exclusive access to the NWS feeds to assist the NWS in their mandate to dissemeniate the weather data as widely as possible.
    Tech
  • The creation of a NWS mission lies in an act of Congress from 1890, before the automobile, the airplane, satellite platforms, radar, computers, and the Internet - 114 years ago.
    I had no idea that acts of Congress came with an expiry date. Important tip folks: Check your laws' Best Before dates frequently. And change the baking soda on a regular basis too--I think something's gone off in the civil right section.
  • by Julian Morrison (5575) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:48AM (#9542040)
    As a Libertarian, I don't support tax funded anything, and that includes weather measuring.

    But, also as a libertarian, I find it daft to deliberately block people who know stuff from telling it, so as to "create a market". Trade is a way to mitigate the unpleasant fact that some things in life aren't free. In aggregate it efficiently allocates resources and effort towards making things cheaper, ie: approaching closer to free.

    When things actually are free for the taking, "creating a market" isn't efficient, it's wasteful. It's directly analogous to going around with a sack of rocks, "creating a market" for glaziers.

    PS: this is also why copyrights and patents are a bad idea...
  • by AIXadmin (10544) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @05:49PM (#9545910) Homepage
    Be sure to send your comments too:
    Official comment address:
    fairweather@noaa.gov

    and

    General D.L. Johnson
    Director of the National Weather Service
    DL.Johnson@noaa.gov

    Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr.
    Under Secretary of Commerce and NOAA
    Administrator
    Conrad.C.Lautenbacher@noaa.go v

    Secretary Donald L. Evans
    Office of the Secretary, Department of Commerce
    devans@doc.gov

    Also find out who your congressman is at:
    http://congress.org/congressorg/home/

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead

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