Gallaudet: Commercial Weather Capabilities Taking Longer Than Expected

Gallaudet: Commercial Weather Capabilities Taking Longer Than Expected

Acting NOAA Administrator RDML Timothy Gallaudet (Ret.) told a House subcommittee today that its pilot program to assess how commercial weather data can be incorporated into its weather models is getting off to a slow start because the commercial capabilities are taking longer to evolve than anticipated.

Acting NOAA Administrator Timothy Gallaudet testifying to the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee, Apr. 11, 2018. Screengrab.

Gallaudet testified to the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee today on NOAA’s FY2019 budget request.

In the FY2016 appropriations act, Congress directed NOAA to initiate a pilot program to assess the potential viability of using commercial weather data in its weather modeling and forecasting.  The pilot program is focused on radio occultation data obtained using signals from global positioning satellites to make measurements of temperature and water vapor throughout the lower parts of the atmosphere.  Combined with data from polar-orbiting weather satellites, such measurements can improve the accuracy of weather forecasts.  NOAA is requesting $3 million for the pilot program in FY2019, a reduction of $2 million from FY2018 appropriations.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama) asked why the program is getting off to a slow start.

Gallaudet replied that “the industry isn’t evolving as fast as we thought it would.  In fact, the radio occultation systems that are available commercially are very few in number. I think there is only one company currently that has the potential to provide it.  But then again, Secretary [of Commerce] Ross … is involved in a pretty active campaign to promote the development of commercial space capabilities so we anticipate growth in that area.”

NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce.

Gallaudet said that other types of data that might be procured from commercial sources in the future range from sea surface temperatures to atmospheric measurements.

Gallaudet is NOAA’s Deputy Administrator, but is serving as Acting Administrator because the Senate has not yet confirmed President Trump’s nominee for the position, Barry Lee Myers.

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