AWCIA Reception - Greeting and Opening Remarks


AMS Annual Meeting, January 22, 2012, New Orleans, LA
AWCIA Recption - Opening Remarks
Steven A. Root

Welcome to the annual reception sponsored by the American Weather and Climate Industry Association. 

While  for many, AWCIA has been widely known… but for most, I suspect that’s not the case… so tonight, I’d like to share a little background information. 

All of us would certainly agree, we have experienced explosive growth in the types of weather and climate services available in this country.  Many factors have combined to fuel these rapid advancements, including the declining cost of technology, the ever increasing speed of communications, and an accelerating demand for rich content from every market segment. 

Already ubiquitous in the United States—and growing worldwide—weather information is in your home, it’s on your television, it’s in your car, on your refrigerator, on your radio, in your newspaper, all over the Internet, and on your mobile device.  It is on the gas pump where you fuel your car.  You see it on the electronic signage in your doctor’s office and in retail stores. It displays prominently at the counter at the front desk of the hotel you are checking in to.   If products travel by rail or by truck, the weather industry helps get them to consumers.  If you eat food, an I suspect most of us do, America’s Weather Industry helped grow that food and helped the commodities traders transacting in it. 

At one time, the government weather service was the nation’s only civilian weather source. The government was the only agency equipped with the tools to collect the observations, move the data, assemble the information and develop and issue weather forecasts. Government employees consulted (without fee) with many who called them on the phone or stopped into their offices, and they provided custom, scheduled services to companies both large and small.  Government employees drew weather maps and charts for The Associated Press and many local newspapers. At one time, government employees even performed weather broadcasts on radio and considered doing television broadcasts.  

Today, fully exposed in all forms of value‐added product exchange, the lines between being a science agency, a consulting source, a communications agency, and a public servant blur between the government and America’s Weather Industry. 

The weather is in the news every day. It is the single most‐accessed piece of information watched, listened for, or selected on radio, television, the wired web and mobile devices.  American weather websites and mobile weather information are accessible from literally anywhere on the planet. American mobile weather websites provide data in dozens of languages.  Now, American‐based mobile weather information—for anywhere on earth—is available to more than one billion handsets. 

The American Weather Industry is a growing driver of international trade that favors American products and services.  The industry’s growing presence, as well as consolidations among the companies it has generated, the demand for communications and scientific services it creates, and a growing jobs base have all spawned payroll and capital gains taxes, both directly and indirectly.  The specifics of this value proposition extend far beyond money, taxes, and the economy. The combination of government radar and warnings, weather industry systems and actions, and the media all contribute not only to revenue, taxes and budgets, but also to lives saved. 

The NOAA’s NWS Strategic Plan for 2011–2020 included a comparison between the 1955 Udall, Kansas tornado (which killed more than 100 people) and the 2007 Greensburg, Kansas tornado (with 11 fatalities).  Local television stations, using weather industry presentation systems, and weather industry television meteorologists triggering all forms of technology and social media, rapidly identify the gathering danger and got the message out extremely well.  Without the solid and stable government - industry partnership currently in place, success stories like this one may never have been realized.  And this is simply one of many excellent examples. 

For years, everyone in the American weather enterprise spoke of collaboration and cooperation between sectors… However, for decades, partisanship between the parties bred contentiousness.  Even when these sectors talked with each other, they never seemed to be able to come to mutually beneficial agreements. 

Through the mid to late 1990’s, weather companies balanced compounding fears against an aging policy statement introduced by the NWS in 1991, prohibiting the agency from competing directly with the weather industry. This policy was created at least in part at the urging of the American Weather and Climate Industry Association (at that time known as the Commercial Weather Services Association, or CWSA), the industry trade association representing dozens of America’s private weather companies.

 Clearly, many felt the turbulence within the Enterprise had reached its peak when, against this prior background, the NWS asked the National Academy of Sciences to review the relationships in what it called the “weather enterprise.”  

After a study lasting more than a year, the National Research Council published its findings in a report entitled, “Fair Weather: Effective Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services.”  

Many commercial members were displeased with the result.  AWCIA sensed that tensions within the Weather Enterprise were negatively affecting perception of all weather related initiatives—both public and private—and that the ultimate success of the Enterprise in America, indeed, of the entire weather industry itself, was in jeopardy.  

After studied consideration, the solution became clear: To achieve what it had never achieved, AWCIA had to do something it had never done.  At our annual AMS reception in January 2006, I rolled out a new initiative: “What would it be like if…”, architected specifically to foster a healthy environment where new collaborative initiatives could grow.   

AWCIA promoted this initiative at tremendous risk to itself, setting aside decades of strong advocacy in exchange for a paradigm that would require much greater tolerance of perceived sector‐related issues as a path toward achieving more proactive solutions.  Thankfully, this event and others that quickly followed would set the stage for a more open, less contentious atmosphere. 

Sometimes “positive regard” must precede positive action. 

As attitudes began to change, new ways of thinking and interacting emerged on all fronts, and strong personal relationships established their foundations.  NWS directors reached out to the weather industry, appointing key individuals to serve as advisors on U.S. delegations to the WMO and working together in joint activities on national and international issues.  

Prominent AWCIA companies joined with Weather Coalition members, jointly supporting NOAA/NWS budgets. The Weather Industry offered its support to the Friends of NOAA, and meetings between the Weather Industry and top NOAA and NWS leadership and Congressional leaders were arranged to advance mutual objectives. 

Further cooperation fostered clarity and healthy mutual respect, and for the first time in decades, articulation of specific sector roles became better understood. A positive precedent was set --- new ground broken. Today, the NWS has dropped the broad “private sector” term when referring to America’s Weather Industry, preferring instead the name that actually identifies it. 

Such distinctions may seem like superficial semantics; however, their implications run far deeper.
In fact, these changes represent substantive policies and actions spreading across the entire weather sciences infrastructure, with new policies presently receiving mutually beneficial collaboration.  

This same message of unity is being heard at gatherings around the country, with key personnel not only in attendance, but actually participating.  We all live under policies, and we all live in language. 

NOAA/NWS and their programs and employees have Weather Industry support for agency funding.  America’s Weather and Climate Industry has NOAA/NWS support in better‐defined policies which serve us all.   In the ideal result, the American citizen emerges as the ultimate beneficiary.  The initiative installed by AWCIA all those years ago is today yielding the fruits it originally hoped for, not only for the Weather Industry in particular, but throughout the entire Weather Enterprise.  

Together, today, the Enterprise has reached a new paradigm of cooperation and mutual support, with dramatic results. America’s Weather Industry is the most robust in the world today.  As a mutual Enterprise, both public and private, we have much to be proud of. 

That is a good thing. 

Because of our election to “step out” and promote a new paradigm of change, of cooperation and mutual support—especially at a time in the history of our Enterprise when the opposite move was expected—and also to apply exhaustive efforts during the years since to maintain this paradigm, we sit in an extremely well-equipped position today. 

And that’s a good thing. 

Why are these things good? 

In 2011, we've experienced more than 1,000 weather‐related fatalities, more than 8,000 injuries and at least 12 ‐ a record for a single year ‐ separate disasters with economic losses greater than $1 billion.   Some believe this pattern of extremes may be the new normal.   If that is true, it is an extremely good thing that we are all working so well together, with strong cooperation and mutual support.  It will be the only way we will be successful with these challenges sure to come. 

Thank you for your support, and thank you for your attendace this evening.


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