NWSEO also said Weather Service management failed to use a significant part of the 35 percent of the funding that was authorized. “To our knowledge, the [Weather Service’s] southern region is the only continental U.S. region that is sending any forecasters to this meeting (about 15 we are told),” Sobien said. “The . . . eastern, western and central regions could have sent a contingent as well under the reduced funding levels, but we understand have decided not to do so.”
Weather Service spokesman Christopher Vaccaro said the agency sent employees from the southern and central regions.
The conference staff scrambled to fill slots and arrange video teleconferencing. Weather Service employees were scheduled to give more than 100 oral and poster presentations, according to a Sept. 25 version of the meeting agenda.
“We had a good first day and used [video conferencing] to allow [Weather Service] speakers to give their talks,” said Bruce Thomas, the NWA’s president. “We are dealing with this in good spirit.”
A message on the meeting blog reads: “We understand and sympathize with presenters who are unable to attend in person for circumstances not within their control.”
Harned, of the NWA, called the empty seats at the meeting “certainly disappointing.”
“Of course, the registration fees we won’t be collecting is concerning, but we will have to wait for a couple of weeks to see what our total revenue stream will be from the attendees who are here, exhibitor and sponsor income, and some reduced expenses we were able to enact at the last minute,” Harned said.
In an official statement, the Weather Service acknowledged the importance of professional development for staff and affirmed its commitment to community engagement, but it also stressed its fiscal responsibilities.
“The exchange of knowledge is vital to the continued professional development of our weather professionals and to the entire weather enterprise,” the Weather Service said. “That fact, and our fundamental duty to make judicious use of taxpayer monies, inform decisions about NOAA participation in or support for conferences.”
Jason Samenow is weather editor for The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang blog and is a member of the NWA. Read more at washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang.