The mayor of Moscow, Russia has decided there should be a penalty for bad weather forecasts. What is he trying to do… become personally responsible for my plunge into the abyss of forecaster’s hell? I’m tense enough already about today’s potential storm.
From The Moscow Times
Thursday, February 24, 2005. Issue 3112. Page 1.
Luzhkov Wants Weathermen to Pay
By Oksana Yablokova
Mayor Yury Luzhkov promised to punish the Moscow weather service for what he said were unreliable forecasts that frustrated the work of various municipal services and disrupted people’s plans.
Speaking at the weekly meeting of the city government on Tuesday, the mayor said the Moscow Weather Bureau would receive no more funding until it signed an agreement with the city that introduced “financial responsibility,” allowing the city to impose penalties for inaccurate forecasts.
“Let us switch to contractual relations,” said Luzhkov, who over the years has shown an obsession with the weather, addressing city officials and Alexei Lyakhov, head of the Moscow Weather Bureau.
“We are paying and would like to receive a quality product,” Luzhkov was quoted by Ekho Moskvy radio as saying. “Instead of that you are giving us tufta,” he said, asking to be forgiven for using the harsh expression. Tufta is loosely translated as bullshit.
Luzhkov’s words were milder as reported by state news agency Itar-Tass: “In a case when instead of a quality product you give us lies, the Moscow Weather Bureau must pay us a fine.”
Luzhkov was picking up on an idea first proposed last year by Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, whose ministry’s rescue workers are called out to cope with natural disasters. Speaking in April in Irkutsk, which was threatened with flooding, he said weather forecasters should also be held responsible for protecting the population.
Nikolai Pavlov, head of the city’s housing and communal services department, said that for a city as big as Moscow, weather forecasts needed to be more detailed as well as more accurate, Ekho Moskvy reported.
This year alone, Moscow has seen a few spells of bad weather for which municipal services were caught unprepared.
The heaviest snowfall witnessed in the capital on a single day since weather records began in the 19th century hit Moscow on Jan. 28. Planes were diverted from the city’s airports, traffic was snarled and pedestrians had to wade through meter-high drifts.
City officials explained their failure to adequately prepare by saying they had been expecting the snowstorm but at a different time. “We had expected abundant snowfalls … although we expected them to occur earlier and be, of course, not so great,” Pyotr Aksyonov, the first deputy mayor, said on Jan. 30, according to Interfax.
Moscow Weather Bureau officials said they are used to criticism but refused to comment on Luzhkov’s plans to fine them for incorrect forecasts.
“However, if the head of the region makes a statement like this, he gives our [bureau’s] leadership food for thought,” said Valery Lukyanov, deputy head of the Moscow Weather Bureau.
“Everyone would like to have 100 percent precise forecasts,” he said. “With all the latest technology available, the science has made a giant breakthrough recently. However, it does not yet allow us to give absolutely accurate forecasts.”
Last Sunday, for instance, the Moscow Weather Bureau said the temperature in the city on Monday afternoon would be 5 degrees below zero Celsius. Instead, it was minus 14.
Lukyanov, however, said that on average, 94 percent of his bureau’s forecasts each month are accurate.
Luzhkov has attacked weather forecasters before. After a severe thunderstorm brought down trees throughout the city in June 1998, he accused forecasters of “telling lies.” The previous year, when record-breaking snowfalls blanketed the city in March, he threatened to fire all the meteorologists at Rosgidromet, even though it was a federal agency and did not report to City Hall. He then pushed for a separate weather service for Moscow.
In 1999, the Moscow Weather Bureau was founded by Rosgidromet, or the Federal Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring Service, jointly with the Moscow city government and the administration of the Moscow region. The lion’s share of its financing comes from the budgets of the city and Moscow region.
Luzhkov’s enthusiasm for the weather also extends to a desire for guaranteed sunny skies over the city on important holidays. He has regularly sent up planes to seed the clouds ahead of celebrations.