For an organization that deals with highs and lows every day, the National Weather Service always had one mode for all of its communications: ALL CAPS, ALL THE TIME:
You might have seen these forecasts directly from the NWS, but with the proliferation of weather apps and websites, that text was also getting pulled and pushed and aggregated in myriad directions. If you’re the type to check the weather over coffee, the all-caps “shouting” might have been all the jolt you needed. Severe warnings, too, seemed to be EXTRA SEVERE.
But all that is changing. Yesterday, the National Weather Service announced that they will begin delivering their information in mixed-case rather than all caps.
From the NWS announcement:
New forecast software is allowing the agency to break out of the days when weather reports were sent by “the wire” over teleprinters, which were basically typewriters hooked up to telephone lines. Teleprinters only allowed the use of upper case letters, and while the hardware and software used for weather forecasting has advanced over the last century, this holdover was carried into modern times since some customers still used the old equipment.
Better late than never, but the slow change was not for lack of trying. 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. In fact, in web speak, use of capital letters became synonymous with angry shouting. 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.
A well-phrased comment over Twitter from the National Weather Service in Grand Forks shows that there might be a period of adjustment:
— NWS Grand Forks (@NWSGrandForks) April 12, 2016
a weirdo the type that likes all-caps text, don’t fret.
“Upper case letters in forecasts will not become obsolete – forecasters will have the option to use all capital letters in weather warnings to emphasize threats during extremely dangerous situations,” the NWS statement goes on, “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.”