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-OK). This legislation directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to prioritize its research to improve weather data, modelling, computing, forecasting, and warnings.
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.
However, NOAA currently lacks a permanent Administrator. Benjamin Friedman, NOAA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Operations, is currently serving as Acting NOAA Administrator. Prior Administrator Kathy Sullivan was a presidential appointee; her tenure ended with President Obama’s. Until new presidential appointees are in place, Friedman and several others will serve in acting roles in addition to their current positions. Among the others is Steve Volz, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Satellites, who will also serve as Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observations and Prediction, replacing Manson Brown.
Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the Committee on Space, Science, and Technology, praised the action of his peers. “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.”
Lucas, who is also Vice Char of the Committee on Space, Science, and Technology, added to Smith’s comments. “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.” Lucas concluded, “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.”
“Americans along the East Coast have unfortunately seen first-hand how devastating hurricanes can be,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “Providing more accurate tracking and intensity forecasts will allow people to better prepare for the safety of their families, homes and businesses.”
“We cannot stop a tsunami or a hurricane, but better forecasts and better warnings will save lives and livelihoods,” said Senator Brian Schatz (D-HA), of the Bill.
The 97-page Bill heads to President Trump’s desk for signature.