BLAME THE UNITED NATIONS FOR ALL CAPS WEATHER SERVICE BULLETINS

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Matt Yglesias is unhappy that the National Weather Service continues to issue its bulletins in all caps, as if they were still using an old-style teletype. I direct his attention to this survey from 2006:

NWS Customer Survey for Official and Experimental Products/Services

Name of Product/Service: Use of mixed case and extended character sets in NWS text products

1. On a scale of 0 to 10 (10 highest), rate technical quality of this product/service (e.g., forecast accuracy, timeliness, problems with display). Etc.

And to this notice from two years ago:

BEGINNING MAY 28 AND CONTINUING THROUGH SEPTEMBER 15 2010…

NWS IS SEEKING USER FEEDBACK ON THE PROPOSAL TO CHANGE ALL NWS TEXT PRODUCTS TO INCLUDE UPPER AND LOWER CASE ALPHABETIC CHARACTERS RATHER THAN ALL UPPERCASE AS IS PRESENTLY DONE. ADDITIONAL PUNCTUATION AND OTHER CHARACTERS THAT ARE PART OF THE INTERNATIONAL REFERENCE ALPHABET NO. 5 WOULD ALSO BE PERMITTED.

And finally to this 60-page document from November, 2010:

2.1 Characters, Case, and Punctuation for Narrative Text. Narrative text uses upper case and only the following punctuation marks in the text: the period (.); the three dot ellipsis (…); the forward slash (/); the dash (-); and the plus (+). Use of other characters may inhibit the proper dissemination or automated processing by certain users’ systems.

The goal of the NWS is to move to mixed case letters with additional allowed punctuation in its text products, while maintaining current text rules in products that are under the purview of the [World Meteorological Organization] requirements listed in the document above or that are required under international or national agreements. Until such changes are officially announced via Public Information Statements, offices will abide by the rules in the paragraph above and in the following sections of this document.

In other words, NWS is on it!  But apparently international conventions are slowing things down. However, last year, a few select NWS offices began using mixed case, and NWS apparently offers a “non-operational product” nationally that also uses mixed case. What’s more, they want your feedback, since this will “help the NWS better plan the eventual transition of all NWS text products to mixed case and the expanded character set.” I have helpfully retyped this public information statement since it was, of course, originally issued in all caps.

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