The Weather Forecasting Improvement Act (H.R. 2413), sponsored by Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma), advanced from House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Thursday with strong, bi-partisan support. The legislation makes the protection of lives and property the top priority of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Congressman Bridenstine emphasized, “H.R. 2413 makes the protection of lives and property the top priority of NOAA, and follows through on that commitment by prioritizing funding and other resources on severe weather detection and forecasting – while not increasing overall spending.”
While the bill passed out of the Environment Subcommittee in June on a party line vote, a comprehensive amendment developed by Bridenstine, Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Ranking Minority Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon) allowed the bill to be reported out of the full committee with unanimous support. Most significantly, the amendment further encourages NOAA to utilize private sector resources when implementing its new priority of protecting people and property from severe weather systems.
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, “Millions of Americans, both in government and private industry, have dedicated their careers and lives to the mission of providing their fellow citizens with accurate, timely weather forecasts, and the technology this bill advances will greatly assist their efforts. In particular, I have seen first-hand the capabilities of phased array radar in the American military, and I am certain that it will help lead America’s weather forecasting efforts towards the goal of having zero preventable deaths occur as a result of a severe weather system like a tornado.
“The passage of this bill out of the Science Committee is a victory for Oklahomans and all Americans who live in tornado-prone areas. I will be urging the House leadership to bring it to the floor for passage as soon as possible.”
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CD01 Staff for Bridenstine
Congressman Jim Bridenstine was elected in 2012 to represent Oklahoma’s First District, which covers Washington, Tulsa, Wagoner Counties plus portions of Rogers & Creek Counties. Bridenstine serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. To see more of his articles visit Bridenstine.house.gov