Bridenstine’s weather forecasting bill advances in the House

December 19, 2013

The Weather Forecasting Improvement Act (H.R. 2413), sponsored by Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma), has advanced from House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology 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).  “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,” Bridenstine said.

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,” Bridenstine said.

He said 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 clarifies that NOAA is not prohibited from obtaining weather data through contracts with commercial providers, and directs NOAA to prepare a report obtaining cost-effective space-based weather observations.

“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,” Bridenstine said. “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.”