How a government shutdown impacts NOAA, weather forecasters

Outreach programs such as training storm spotters, educating emergency managers and conducting field observations for long-term studies are temporarily suspended during government shutdowns. Operations at NASA and the National Park Service are also significantly impacted during funding battles.

WASHINGTON – A government shutdown impacts nearly every aspect of life, but for forecasters and many experts at the National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center and other organizations, the mission to protect lives and property continues despite a lack of funding.

Several divisions of NOAA are considered essential, much like that of the military, law enforcement and air traffic controllers, and never participate in furlough programs.

During a government shutdown, forecasts continue to be made, radars continue to spin and computer models continue to display outputs, but services are accomplished by employees who do not get paid until the government fully reopens.

While life-saving operations continue, the majority of NOAA’s employees who are devoted to climate research, fisheries and pollution are furloughed, leading to a halt in several programs.

According to the Ocean Conservancy group, a government shutdown in 2019 caused major ramifications for the fishing industry as stick assessments, meetings and other activities came to a halt.

A shutdown would come at a time when fisheries were already hard hit by mass die-offs in the Pacific and needed resources to help turn animal populations around.


National Weather Service outreach programs such as training storm spotters, educating emergency managers and other public interactions are also temporarily halted during funding lapses because they are deemed non-critical operations.

A shutdown also impacts many government sites that do not post critical forecast information or alerts.

On web pages that are taken offline, a notice similar to the following will be displayed: "Due to the government shutdown, all public National Weather Service activities, including tours and other outreach activities, have been canceled or postponed until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience. The NWS will continue to provide critical forecast, watch and warning information to protect life and property throughout the shutdown."

In addition to NOAA, the National Park Service, NASA and FEMA all are impacted by a government shutdown.

Hundreds of national park sites close, long-term space exploration planning is halted, and recovery and debris removal projects are suspended until full funding is restored.


According to the U.S. Historian’s Office, there have been 20 gaps in funding since 1977 that have lasted at least a day or longer.

The 2018-2019 shutdown is the longest in modern history and lasted 34 days before Congress passed funding bills.