Weather Forecasting Improvement Bill Scheduled for Markup July 9

Weather Forecasting Improvement Bill Scheduled for Markup July 9

The Environment Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee plans to markup the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act on Tuesday.

The bill is broadly concerned with restoring U.S. leadership in weather forecasting and is not particularly focused on weather satellites.  It does, however, clarify 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.  It also 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.

If passed, the bill would also require 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.

The subcommittee held two hearings on the bill, on May 23  and June 26.   Subcommittee Democrats expressed concern at the June 26 hearing that the bill is too heavily focused on research at OAR rather than forecasters’ needs at the National Weather Service, and sets up unnecessary conflict between OAR’s weather researchers versus its climate and ocean researchers.  Ranking member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) said too much emphasis is made on differentiating between “weather” and “climate.”


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