Energy

Gov’t Weather Reports Will No Longer Be Written In ALL CAPITAL LETTERS

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

Talk about government efficiency. The National Weather Service (NWS) has finally announced it will no longer be sending out weather reports using all capital letters — a feat that’s only taken the bureaucracy 20 years to complete.

“Better late than never, but the slow change was not for lack of trying,” reads an NWS press release on the change in weather bulletins.

NWS officials announced the change Monday in a press release saying their “FORECASTS WILL STOP YELLING AT YOU.” For decades, NWS weather reports were sent over the wire in only capital letters because the teleprinters they used only allowed bulletins to be written that way.

But in the Internet age, something written in all capital letters is generally meant to convey anger or alarm. It’s the way you yell at someone over the Web, and NWS will finally change over all their old equipment so they can use lower-case letters. And it only took 20 years.

“The National Weather Service has proposed to use mixed-case letters several times since the 1990s, when widespread use of the Internet and email made teletype obsolete,” according to the press release.

“In fact, in web speak, use of capital letters became synonymous with angry shouting,” the press release noted. “However, it took the next 20 years or so for users of Weather Service products to phase out the last of the old equipment that would only recognize teletype.”

Meteorologist Anthony Watts picked up the NWS press release on his website and even linked to an image of what a government weather report looks like. To many modern Internet users, it looks alarming — even though it may not actually be talking about severe weather.

Watts also included an image of the old teleprinters used by NWS to send weather reports over the wire.

NWS is set to switch over its weather reporting system from all upper-case letter to mixed-case on May 11, 2016. It’ll probably be a transition for some seasoned weather forecasters, but at least one NWS meteorologist has gotten used to it.

“People are accustomed to reading forecasts in uppercase letters and seeing mixed-case use might seem strange at first,” NWS meteorologist Art Thomas said in the press release. “It seemed strange to me until I got used to it over the course of testing the new system, but now it seems so normal.”

Meteorologists will still be able to use all upper-case typeset for “weather warnings to emphasize threats during extremely dangerous situations,” according to NWS.

“Certain forecast products with international implications, such as aviation and shipping, will continue to use upper case letters, per international agreements that standardize weather product formats across national borders,” according to NWS.

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