House Passes Weather Forecasting Bill


WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR – The U.S House of Representatives today unanimously approved the Senate amendment to H.R. 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Vice Chair Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). This legislation directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to prioritize its research to improve weather data, modelling, computing, forecasting, and warnings.

Vice Chairman Lucas: “When a major storm or tornado is quickly approaching your community, every additional minute of preparation time counts. This legislation strengthens our country’s commitment to severe weather forecasting and ensures NOAA has access to the best weather data. I am proud the bill also includes a dedicated Tornado Warning Improvement Program that will help develop detection and notification systems.

“The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act is a major step toward more accurate and timely weather predictions, and I am eager to see these life-saving policies signed into law soon.”

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Today we took a major step to transform our nation’s weather forecasting.  The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act will enable new weather research, models, and technologies to better protect lives and property. With this bipartisan effort, we will improve forecasting by looking to the private sector for new technologies and weather solutions. This bill gives NOAA a clear vision and allows them the flexibility to buy new, affordable, and potentially better sources of data. With more and better options, we can finally make needed improvements to our weather forecasting capabilities.  I look forward to the president signing this critical legislation so that we can make our weather industry great again.”

Background

This legislation is the product of a bipartisan effort.  It directs the NOAA administrator to focus resources and effort to:

  • Prioritize NOAA research on next generation weather data, modeling, and computing;
  • Emphasize developing much more accurate forecasts and longer warning times for high impact weather events;
  • Support proactive technology transfer of weather research into operations to protect lives and property;
  • Create focused programs to extend warning lead times and improve forecasts for tornadoes and hurricanes specifically;
  • Develop a plan to utilize observing system simulation experiments and innovative technology to regain U.S. superiority in weather modeling and forecasts;
  • Employ new commercial data options and private sector weather solutions; and
  • Enhance coordination among various federal government weather stakeholders.

The legislation also authorizes and extends a NOAA pilot program already under way thanks to a partnership between the House Science and the House Appropriations Committees. Under this pilot program, NOAA has already issued two contracts to procure commercial satellite weather data. This pilot program could bring about a paradigm shift in how NOAA makes decisions about future procurement of critical weather data and systems.