If you’re used to checking your phone every morning to see what the weather is, that might change in the future due to bandwidth issues, according to the National Weather Service. In a recent statement, the NWS shared that as their data budget is hitting a ceiling, and demand for access continues to grow, they may have to consider throttling the amount of users who can access their essential forecast data.
According to their statement: “As demand for data continues to grow across NCEP websites, we are proposing to put new limits into place to safeguard our web services. The frequency of how often these websites are accessed by the public has created limitations and infrastructure constraints.”
For the past decade, the National Weather Service has been struggling to find the best and most efficient ways to disseminate critical forecast and warning information. According to an in-depth look at this problem by the Washington Post, the combination of increased data collection and demand for access from private companies and hobbyists has created a bottleneck that at times has crashed NWS websites.
Ordinary weather consumers who get their information primarily from weather apps on their phones would be affected by the NWS proposal to throttle access because the forecasts and weather alerts they receive are based on data that comes from the Weather Service. If nothing else, the data limits could cause services that rely on NWS data, like many smartphone weather apps, to be hours behind the real-time measurements they’ve been accustomed to accessing.
This issue has not been ignored by the government, and a senior ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees NOAA, recently commented publicly that a request to upgrade the Weather Service’s computing infrastructure would probably find bipartisan support.
“From wildfires in Washington to hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, seconds count to save lives and property, and weather data plays a critical role in getting our emergency managers and first responders the information they need,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell. “The United States should be striving to be the best in the world when it comes to weather data and forecasts, and with everything we’ve seen this year, a request to upgrade servers at the National Weather Service would find support on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Telling people to limit their use of this critical data is not an acceptable answer.”
While everyone is scrambling to find the best solution to this issue, the NWS has assured the public that if changes are ultimately made, they would be rolled out slowly with advanced notification.