21 August 2011

U.S. aims to become 'weather-ready'

A tornado in its early stage of formation. Photo: NOAA
A tornado in its early stage of formation. Photo: NOAA
The U.S. National Weather Service is launching a comprehensive initiative to build a "weather-ready" nation to make America safer by saving more lives and protecting livelihoods as communities across the country become increasingly vulnerable to severe weather events.

"Severe weather represents a very real threat to public safety that requires additional robust action," said Jack Hayes, director of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization's (NOAA's) National Weather Service.

"The increasing impacts of natural disasters, as seen this year, are a stark reminder of the lives and livelihoods at risk."

In partnership with other government agencies, researchers, and the private sector, the National Weather Service is charting a path to a weather-ready nation through:

*Improved precision of weather and water forecasts and effective communication of risk to local authorities;
*Improved weather decision support services with new initiatives such as the development of mobile-ready emergency response specialist teams;
*Innovative science and technological solutions such as the nationwide implementation of Dual Pol radar technology, Integrated Water Resources Science and Services, and the Joint Polar Satellite System;
*Strengthening joint partnerships to enhance community preparedness;
*Working with weather enterprise partners and the emergency management community to enhance safety and economic output and effectively manage environmental resources.

Test projects provide action plans

The National Weather Service is also planning innovative, community-based test projects across the country, ranging in focus from emergency response to ecological forecasting, to enhance the agency's preparedness efforts to better address the impacts of extreme weather. Test projects will initially be launched at strategic locations in the Gulf Coast, South and mid-Atlantic.

"These test projects serve as tangible examples of how the National Weather Service is trying to address the impact of weather-related disasters," said Hayes. "Ultimately, these projects will provide the specific action plans necessary for us to adapt to extreme weather events and represent an important step in building a weather-ready nation."

Disasters cause huge economic losses

NOAA is also announcing that the United States has so far this year experienced nine separate disasters, each with an economic loss of USD1 billion or more - tying the record set in 2008.

The latest event to surpass the USD1 billion price tag is this summer's flooding along the Missouri and Souris rivers in the upper Midwest. This year's losses have so far amounted to more than USD35 billion.

In the past 30 years, the United States has experienced a total of 108 weather-related disasters that have caused more than USD1 billion dollars in damages. Overall, these disasters have resulted in three-quarters of USD1 trillion in standardized losses since 1980, according to NOAA records.

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