Starting this Sunday, January 6, more than 3,000 meteorology professionals will convene in Austin, Texas for the American Meteorological Society (AMS) annual meeting. But the National Weather Service (NWS) representation at the meeting will be its weakest in years.

A NWS spokesperson confirmed just 57 employees will attend this year’s meeting, down from 115 in 2012 - more than a 50 percent cut.

The slash in NWS representation at this meeting comes in the wake of an incident in which 80 NWS employees were told, after months of planning, they could not travel to the smaller National Weather Association meeting in October. This occurred just over one day before the meeting was set to start.

Both the Department of Commerce (DOC - NWS’ parent agency) and NWS have cited the constrained budget environment as cause for the the travel cutbacks.

“The Department of Commerce, in addition to NOAA, is committed to being a good steward of taxpayer dollars, including when it comes to participating in conferences which further Commerce’s mission to support American businesses, create jobs, strengthen the economy, and advance scientific innovation,” DOC said in a statement in October following the National Weather Association meeting incident.

Related: NOAA participation in climate conference in limbo due to lack of travel approval

For its part, the AMS has stressed the value of these meetings and attending in person. In a blog post, executive director Keith Seitter wrote:

It can be argued ... that the cost of travel to a scientific conference is returned many times over by the things that can be accomplished by the attendees over the course of those few intense days, as well as by the creative productivity they bring back to their institution after the meeting.

The theme of this year’s AMS meeting is “Taking Predictions to the Next Level: Expanding Beyond Today’s Weather, Water, and Climate Forecasting and Projections.”

“[The restrictions in government travel are] truly unfortunate — especially given the meeting theme of taking predictions to the next level, which is such a core issue for those working in NOAA and other government agencies,” Seitter wrote.