Lawmakers on the legislature’s Transportation Committee are set to review an amendment to the Meteorological Act (氣象法) that would allow private weather companies to give extreme-weather forecasts.
Currently, the act only authorizes the Central Weather Bureau to carry out such services. The act also states that all nationwide meteorological, seismological and marine meteorological forecasts and warnings must be issued by the bureau.
Private weather companies can only offer general weather forecasts, and any company publishing forecasts of extreme weather such as typhoons would face a fine.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), who proposed the amendment, said the act is too restrictive and leaves private companies little room for development, adding that they are only allowed to forecast the weather in very general terms, and cannot report on heavy rain, hail or other severe weather.
According to Yeh, several other lawmakers support the amendment, which is scheduled to be reviewed by the committee during the current legislative session.
As well as seeking to ease restrictions on private weather forecasters, the amendment also aims to tighten regulations governing weather reports given by television stations.
The amendment would require TV stations to cite the sources of information on the weather or earthquakes if the data comes from an overseas institution.
The amendment states that such TV reports should also include comments from the Central Weather Bureau.
WeatherRisk Explorer company founder Peng Chi-ming (彭啟明) said that his firm welcomed the proposed amendment.
He said that the current regulations have prevented companies like his from providing useful information to the public, while leaving the media free to mislead people with inaccurate information.
Central Weather Bureau Director-General Shin Tzay-chyn (辛在勤) said that forecasts and alerts for typhoons or other extreme or dangerous weather events should only be issued by the bureau because inaccurate reports could cause serious problems. However, the nation could consider relaxing regulations for some severe weather forecasts, he said.
“We hope the Legislative Yuan will amend the act with an open yet cautious attitude,” he said, adding that the amendment should be clear on the new regulations, and set out penalties for any breaches.
Shin agreed that local media firms should cite their sources if they use foreign media reports, or forecasts from overseas weather forecasting institutions.
Separately, both the bureau and Peng were pessimistic about the likely amount of rainfall during this year’s “Plum Rain Season,” which generally lasts from next month to June.
The rainfall in these two months accounts for one-third of the nation’s total annual rainfall.
Peng said that his company expected a comparatively dry Plum Rain Season based on information it has gathered to date.
Cheng Ming-dean (鄭明典), director of the bureau’s weather forecasting center, did not seem confident there would be alot of rain.
“This year’s rainfall in the Plum Rain Season, which begins on May 1 … It’s better to keep that to ourselves,” Cheng wrote on his Facebook page.
Despite the possibility of a relatively dry period ahead, Peng said that only southern Taiwan is currently short of water. The reservoir levels in the rest of the country have been restored, he said.