Don’t put a weather-sensitive economy at risk
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The impact of weather on our lives is a daily consideration. Who doesn’t check their mobile devices for weather information every day to see how it will impact our routine activities: a raincoat and boots for the kids, gloves or not, or an umbrella. But weather is hardly routine. 

Extreme weather-related losses have risen 350 percent since 1980 and caused over $1.1 trillion of economic damage. Floods, hurricanes, hail storms, tornadoes, wildfires and storm surges are a staple of our news and, in too many cases, our communities. Population increases in high-risk areas, both coastal and inland, have created “disasters by design” in the words of Dr. Dennis Mileti, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado.

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Beyond our personal lives, it is increasingly clear that ours is a weather-dependent economy. We know that U.S. businesses lose more than $500 billion each year because of weather-related issues.  For example, turbulence costs the airline industry $100 million annually.

 

Weather causes over half of insurance claims. Planning appropriately for weather can impact the bottom line. Energy companies incorporate weather prediction into seasonal planning.  Retail companies report sales strategies by incorporating weather data. Economic activity and related employment are interwoven with weather and climate information sources.

And what is that source? While private companies and the media deliver information and value-added services, it is predominantly federal programs, particularly those at NOAA and NASA, that are the root source of those services. 

The observational capabilities, including satellite, land-based and ocean capabilities, at these agencies are critical to support the American economy and to those employed in related businesses. NOAA and NASA also provide modelling, data analytics, risk communications and research that are vital to our economic activity. 

The U.S. is a weather-sensitive economy. Reported storm tracks, severe weather impacts, and short- and long-term predictions allow our citizens to prepare for and respond to local events.  It also enables business, farmers, insurers and transportation providers to reduce uncertainty and cost to their customers and incorporate resilience into their business plans. 

One of the basic underpinnings of our economy is the weather and climate infrastructure that supports the business community, the weather community and American citizens.

Proposals to reduce the value of these programs at NOAA and NASA are contrary to promoting economic activity and the employment related to it. If we are to commit resources to infrastructure, we should be strengthening, not weakening, these programs that are essential to our daily lives, and the businesses we rely on for jobs and depend on as consumers. 

Franklin Nutter is president, Reinsurance Association of America, @TheRAA. Mary Glackin is senior vice president of science and forecast operations, The Weather Company, an IBM Business @theweathercompany. Bill Hooke is associate executive director and senior policy fellow, American Meteorological Society, @ametsoc.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.