Weather Service will STOP SHOUTING THE FORECAST

The National Weather Service is upgrading their equipment to handle mixed-case letters.

NWS then and now

Since forever the National Weather Service has issued their forecasts IN ALL CAPS. This was because the teletype, first patented in 1846, that they used in the early years could only handle capital letters. And being a government creature of habit all of their systems were configured for decades to that teletype standard. But in recent years the agency has been upgrading their equipment to a technology more advanced than the teletype.

Teletype
A Teletype Model 33 ASR teleprinter, with punched tape reader and punch, usable as a computer terminal. Wikipedia photo.

With the use of the internet, most people now interpret ALL CAPS as yelling or screaming, or at least an indication that the content is extremely important. If everything you type is SCREAMED, that limits opportunities for escalation of importance.

We have ranted about this on several occasions, here, here, and here, at least. Our position has been that mixed case characters are easier to read. And, they make it more feasible to copy and paste into another document.

As an example, below is today’s fire weather forecast for an area 30 miles west of Augusta, Montana screaming about rain and snow:

A QUIET MORNING WILL GIVE WAY TO INCREASING CHANCES FOR SHOWERS/ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING. EXPECT PERIODS OF LOWER ELEVATION RAIN AND MOUNTAIN SNOWS FROM WEDNESDAY THROUGH FRIDAY…WITH THU INTO FRI LOOKING TO BE THE BEST PERIOD FOR WETTER CONDITIONS. TEMPERATURES WILL BE MILD TODAY…THEN A GRADUAL COOLING TREND IS EXPECTED FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE WORK WEEK.

Three forecast products will transition to mixed-case use on May 11, including area forecast discussions, public information statements and regional weather summaries. Severe weather warnings will transition this summer, with other forecasts and warnings transitioning to the new system through early next year.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Kelly and Tristan.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+