Petition Seeks to Reverse NOAA Weather Chart Alterations

Information removed in recent changes to NOAA's surface forecasts, in black (Lee Chesneau / NOAA)

By The Maritime Executive 08-15-2018 06:56:02

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has enacted two changes that degrade the amount of information available on the meteorological charts used by mariners to help forecast potential weather conditions while at sea and chart safe routes for their vessels. There is now an active White House petition opposing these changes. 

The first NOAA change eliminates past tracking information for all high- and low-pressure systems and would only include future forecast tracks on low-pressure systems that are deemed to have hazards associated with them. More information regarding this change is available online [https://www.weather.gov/media/notification/pdfs/pns17-17surface-analysis.pdf].

NOAA also enacted changes to the 500mb chart, switching to a fully automated system that doesn't provide complete representation of what is happening in the upper atmosphere. Removing the human element has caused vital information to be deleted. For years, mariners have found all the information contained in 500mb and other meteorological charts to be valuable in safely forecasting and navigating at sea. More information regarding this change is available online [https://www.weather.gov/media/notification/pdfs/pns17-26opc_500mb.pdf].

NOAA's changes went into effect in the summer of 2017. The problems with these changes were recently raised by American Maritime Officers members who were training at STAR Center and wondered why they had not received direct notification. The concerned mariners, along with STAR Center personnel, have since spearheaded a petition drive to have the changes to the charts reversed.

The petition can be viewed and signed online at https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/petition-changes-made-noaas-opcs-graphical-products

Another aim of the petition is to require NOAA and other government entities with maritime jurisdiction to give adequate opportunity for input from mariners on matters that directly impact how they perform their duties.

Following is the language of the petition objecting to the NOAA changes:

"We/I the undersigned, offer our name(s)/signature(s) to strongly oppose the changes made by NOAA's Ocean Prediction Center's synoptic scale meteorological and oceanographic charts that they imposed on the maritime industry. These alterations of removing critically important information that were originally stakeholder driven and in place for decades, now unnecessarily jeopardizes mariners' safety. We/I further believe that these unwarranted changes put mariners at risk for misinterpretation of the true meteorological and oceanographic picture, especially those mariners engaged in commerce. NOAA's OPC implemented the downgrading of certain products without proper vetting and seeking out consensus solutions, thus not giving the mariner a voice."

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