House Passes Weather Forecasting Improvement Act

House Passes Weather Forecasting Improvement Act

The House passed the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act today by voice vote.  Republican and Democratic members of the House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee praised passage of the bill.

When the bill (H.R. 2413) was first introduced, there was concern that it prioritized weather research at NOAA at the expense of climate research, but the bill was revised to ease those concerns before it was approved by the House SS&T committee in December.  The version approved today was co-sponsored by Republicans and Democrats.

The bill primarily concerns non-space related aspects of weather forecasting, but a few provisions are directed at NOAA’s weather satellite programs.  The bill —  

  • clarifies that existing law that prohibits privatizing or commercializing the government’s weather satellites does not prevent the government from buying commercial weather data or placing weather satellite instruments on co-hosted government or private payloads.
  • calls for a report from NOAA assessing the range of commercial opportunities for obtaining space-based weather observations and their cost-effectiveness.   NOAA already obtains some weather data from commercial sources and, in a 2010 congressionally-requested report, said that it plans to continue doing so.
  • requires NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) to conduct Observing System Simulation Experiments (OSSEs) to quantitatively assess the relative value and benefits of observing capabilities and systems, including satellites, prior to their acquisition.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who introduced the bill, called it a “first step toward restoring America’s leadership in weather forecasting and prediction.”   The University of Oklahoma is home to the National Weather Center, a confederation of federal (NOAA), state and academic organizations that try to improve understanding of atmospheric events.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), ranking member of the House SS&T’s Environment Subcommittee, said the bill “makes real and measurable improvements in weather research and weather forecasting.”

There is no companion bill in the Senate at the moment, but the easy bipartisan passage of H.R. 2413 could improve its chances of making it through the congressional process. 

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