On September 2nd, a blog was posted on Commerce.gov, the website for the United States Department of Commerce about the value of weather and climate data the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides. Did you know that the National Weather Service is a part of NOAA, which in turn is a subset of the US Department of Commerce?
I've been asked why that department oversees the weather bureau, as the older generation calls it, and the answer is pretty simple. The weather affects everything we do from just getting dressed in the morning to planting and irrigating crops to transportation. A hurricane in the gulf can make gas prices at the pump increase. An impending winter storm can create a run on shovels, sleds, and generators at the local big box store. Either of these events can shut down air travel and shipping in large parts of the country, and all of these things relate in a big way to our economy.
Meteorological and climatological data is used by broadcasters, farmers, scientists, engineers, airlines, the military, insurance companies, and financial markets. There is not an aspect of our economy that the weather doesn't touch in some way.
So, when Jane Callen wrote in that blog post "the aggregate annual valuation of weather forecasts was about $31.5 billion a year," the estimate did not surprise me at all. Can you think of ways knowing the forecast has saved you money in the past?