Bridenstine Weather Bill Advances in House
The Weather Forecasting Improvement Act (H.R. 2413), sponsored by Oklahoma 1st District Congressman Jim Bridenstine, advanced from subcommittee on Tuesday with no substantive changes. The legislation aims to protect lives and property by shifting funds from climate change research to severe weather forecasting research.
Congressman Bridenstine emphasized, “The bill does not increase spending but rather shifts funding to make improved severe weather forecasting a higher priority of the Federal government.”
The bill will prioritize the mission of NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) to include the protection of lives and property, and make funds available to improve weather-related research, operations, and computing resources. The bill both directs NOAA to undertake quantitative, cost-benefit assessments used in obtaining data for forecasts, and prepare a report outlining the options of commercial opportunities for obtaining space-based weather observations.
The centerpiece of this bill is a codification and expansion of NOAA weather research activities, specifically directing the agency to place “priority emphasis on development of more accurate and timely warnings and forecasts of high impact weather events that endanger life and property.” The bill also codifies an existing technology transfer initiative carried out jointly between the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and the National Weather Service aimed at ensuring “continuous development and transition of the latest scientific and technological advances into NWS operations.”
The bill creates a Tornado Warning Extension Program, the goal of which shall be to “develop and extend accurate tornado forecasts and warnings beyond one hour in order to reduce loss of life, injury, and damage to the economy.” It also requires NOAA to prepare a program plan detailing the research and development activities and the associated budget resources necessary to successfully realize the tornado forecasting improvements.
The bill also directs NOAA to systematically evaluate the combination of observing systems necessary to meet weather forecasting data requirements, and develop a range of options to address potential data gaps. It further specifies that one component of this planning effort shall include Observing System Simulation Experiments (OSSEs) to quantitatively assess the relative value and benefits of potential observing capabilities and systems.
Finally, the bill clarifies that NOAA is not prohibited from obtaining weather data through contracts with commercial providers, and directs NOAA to prepare a report assessing the range of commercial opportunities for obtaining cost-effective space-based weather observations.
Congressman Bridenstine said, “My state has seen all too many times the destructive power of tornadoes and severe weather. In the wake of the latest outbreak in May that cost 48 lives, it is painfully clear that we must do more. The good news is that we can do more. In testimony before the Subcommittee, witnesses detailed how a concerted effort to improve forecasting innovation would improve protection of lives and property. Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier from the University of Oklahoma testified that, with a concerted research and technology development, zero deaths from severe weather should be our ultimate goal. By making weather research and the protection of lives and property NOAA’s top priority, the bill before us today takes a small but important first step toward achieving this goal.”
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