Gov Relations

University community provides key input on Weather Forecasting Improvement Act

currency

November 18, 2013 | The House Science Committee is expected to introduce and vote on a bipartisan managers’ agreement to the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2013 (H.R. 2413) at a date yet to be determined. Leaders in the university community and weather enterprise have been keenly interested in the bill, providing testimony and working closely with House Science Committee staff to assure the bill reflects the community's commitment to improving and augmenting weather-related research, research-to-operations, and collaboration with the federal agencies.

Here's a look at the bill's evolution to date, followed by a rundown on some of the new programs and requirements it proposes. (Find the bill's summary and status on the THOMAS website of the Library of Congress.)

Timing

Event

Participants

July

First version introduced, requiring the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to make certain “…weather-related activities concerning public safety and the national economy the top priority in the planning and management of programs within all relevant NOAA line offices.”

Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK, from the Tulsa district)

June 18

Testimony before House Subcommittee on the Environment from members of the university community and weather enterprise

  • Kathy Sullivan (Acting Administrator, NOAA)
  • Bill Gail (CEO, Global Weather Corp;
    President-elect, AMS)
  • Shuyi Chen (Meteorology, University of Miami)
  • Kelvin Droegemeier (Vice Chair, National Science Board; Vice President of Research, University of Oklahoma)

July

Favorably reported out of subcommittee

House Subcommittee on the Environment

Summer/Fall

Consultation with House Science Committee results in bipartisan managers' agreement from Subcommittee on the Environment Chairman Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)

Leaders from

  • UCAR
  • Weather Coalition
  • NOAA
  • National Academy of Sciences

TBD

House Science Committee expected to introduce and vote on bipartisan agreement

Full House of Representatives

 

New programs, new requirements

The legislation would establish several new programs and requirements at NOAA and one program at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for the purpose of prioritizing “weather-related activities, including the provision of weather data, forecasts, and warnings for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy.” Here are some examples of language reflecting the community's concerns:

The bill now includes a section that would call on NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research to establish a floor on the percentage of its funding available for extramural research, as follows:

EXTRAMURAL RESEARCH—

(1) IN GENERAL.—In carrying out the program under this section, the Assistant Administrator for OAR shall collaborate with and support the non-Federal weather research community, which includes institutions of higher education, private entities, and nongovernmental organizations, by making funds available through competitive grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements.

(2) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that not less than 30 percent of the funds authorized for research and development at OAR by this Act should be made available for this purpose.

In addition, H.R. 2413 would authorize at $20 million per year a new joint technology transfer initiative “…in cooperation with the American weather industry and academic partners, to ensure continuous development and transition of the latest scientific and technological advances into NWS Operations.”

The bill would also create a Tornado Warning Extension Program, with the goal of extending accurate tornado forecasts and warnings beyond one hour. It also would create a parallel Hurricane Warning Improvement Program for extending hurricane forecasts and warnings.

The bill would direct NOAA to systematically evaluate the combination of observing systems necessary to meet weather forecasting data requirements, and develop a range of options to address potential data gaps. It further specifies that one component of this planning effort should include "observing system simulation experiments" (OSSEs) to quantitatively assess the relative value and benefits of potential observing capabilities and systems.

The bill would clarify that NOAA is not prohibited from obtaining weather data through contracts with commercial providers, and would direct NOAA to prepare a report assessing the range of commercial opportunities for obtaining cost-effective space-based weather observations.

The final sections of the bill would establish two new weather research oversight programs aimed at infusing NOAA’s research with external collaboration, direction, and advice.

The first is a federal advisory committee that would give NOAA direction on ways to improve innovation in weather forecasting.

The second is an interagency coordinating committee located in the Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate weather research and innovation efforts across the federal government, including NOAA, NSF, NASA, and the FAA, in consultation with the academic and private sectors.

House Science Committee staff indicates a full committee vote on the manager’s agreement could come this calendar year, but no date has yet been set. Should the House Science Committee meet and report the bill affirmatively, House leadership will have to decide whether to bring it to the House floor. In order for the bill to become law, the House must pass the bill, the Senate would need to follow suit with its own consideration and passage, and the President would need to sign it into law.

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