In January, the U.S. House unanimously approved H.R. 353, the Lucas-Bridenstine Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act.
The Washington Post called this “the first major piece of weather legislation adopted since the early 1990s.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been criticized during the Obama Administration for focusing too much on controversial “climate change” and too little on more practical issues. It is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“Our aim is to have zero deaths from tornadoes and other extreme weather events,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma. “This bill gets us closer to that day. I thank my House colleagues for their support, and anticipate swift Senate passage and that the President will sign it into law.”
“Every minute counts in the lead up before a major storm or tornado,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoma. “This legislation helps to give those in harm’s way additional disaster preparation time which could ultimately be the difference between life and death or thousands of dollars in property damage. I am encouraged that the House has taken action on this critical matter and hope to see these life-saving policies enacted soon.”
This bipartisan legislation directs the administrator of NOAA to focus resources and effort to:
- Rebalance NOAA funding to place a higher priority on weather-related research and activities;
- Emphasize developing accurate forecasts and timely warnings of high impact weather events;
- Create programs to extend warning lead times and improve forecasts for tornadoes and hurricanes;
- Develop a plan to utilize advanced technology to regain U.S. superiority in weather modeling and forecasts;
- Increase focus and continue development of seasonal forecasts and how to maximize information from these forecasts; 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 Space and Technology and the House Appropriations Committee. 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.
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith said, “Americans from coast to coast will now be better prepared for severe weather with the passage of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act. This bill has been four years in the making and is long overdue. It will transform our nation’s weather gathering efforts and help save lives and property. This legislation strengthens the underlying atmospheric science while simultaneously advancing innovative technology and reforming operations to provide better weather data, models, and forecasts. America can thank Representatives Lucas and Bridenstine for leading this innovation initiative. We look forward to the Senate approving this bill soon.”
The legislation, originally introduced in the House in 2013, passed the House in 2015, and last December the Senate approved an amended version. Provisions in the bill approved this month are nearly identical to the Senate version. Bridenstine anticipates swift passage again in the Senate and presentation to the new president for signing into law.