H.R. 353, Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017
On Monday, January 9, 2017, the House will consider H.R. 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017, under a suspension of the rules. H.R. 353 was introduced on January 6, 2017, by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and was referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
H.R. 353 improves the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to focus on affordable and attainable advances in observational, computing, and modeling capabilities in an effort to deliver substantial improvement in weather forecasting and prediction of high impact weather events, such as those associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, storm surges, and wildfires.
Public Safety Prioritization - The bill directs the Administrator of NOAA to prioritize weather-related activities to protect life and property and the enhancement of the national economy in all relevant offices.
Weather Research Prioritization - The bill expands NOAA weather research activities, directing the agency to place ‘‘priority on developing more accurate, timely, and effective warnings and forecasts of high impact weather events that endanger life and property.’’ The bill also strengthens technology transfers from research to operations, which will bring cutting-edge technologies to aid forecasts.
Tornado Warning Improvement and Extension Program - The bill creates a tornado research program in an effort to develop more accurate, effective, and timely tornado forecasts, predictions, and warnings, including the prediction of tornadoes beyond one hour in advance.
Hurricane Warning Improvement Program - The bill creates a hurricane research program in an effort to ‘‘develop and extend accurate hurricane forecasts and warnings in order to reduce loss of life, injury, and damage to the economy.’’
Weather Research Planning - The bill directs the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), in coordination with the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), to annually develop and issue a prioritized weather research and development plan to restore U.S. world leadership in weather modeling, prediction, and forecasting.
Improved Observing System Planning - The bill directs 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. The bill further specifies that one component of this planning effort shall include Observing System Simulation Experiments (OSSEs) to quantitatively assess the relative value and benefits of potential observing capabilities and systems.
Observing System Simulation Experiments - The bill specifies that OSSEs shall be conducted prior to acquisition of government owned or leased operational observing systems. It also requires the Assistant Administrator for OAR to make public the results from OSSEs conducted for Global Positioning Systems (GPS) radio occultation and a geostationary hyperspectral sounder global constellation.
Computing Resources Prioritization Report - The bill requires that NOAA must issue an annual plan that explains how NOAA intends to pursue the newest, fastest, and most cost effective high performance computing technologies in support of its weather prediction mission.
Commercial Weather Data - The bill clarifies that NOAA is permitted to buy private sector weather data and fly weather sensors on commercial satellites and requires the Secretary of Commerce to develop a strategy to do so within six months of enactment. The bill establishes a pilot program to validate commercial weather technologies, and requires NOAA to determine if it is in the national interest to continue solely pursuing government weather satellites.
Environmental Information Services Working Group - The bill directs the NOAA Science Advisory Board to maintain a standing working group on Environmental Information Services to provide advice for prioritizing weather research initiatives at NOAA to improve weather forecasting.
Interagency Weather Research and Innovation Coordination - The bill directs the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish an Interagency Committee for Advancing Weather Services to improve coordination in relevant weather research and forecast innovation activities across the Federal government. The bill also provides certain criteria for the membership of the Committee.
Extreme weather events pose significant risks to the safety of millions of Americans every year and have adverse effects on many aspects of the U.S. economy. Recent severe weather events in the United States have underscored the need for timely, accurate, and reliable weather forecasts. According to the NOAA, since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 178 weather and climate disasters costing more than $1 billion each, with a total cost of over $1 trillion. Within NOAA, the National Weather Service (NWS), the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) play important roles in developing and deploying U.S. weather forecasting capabilities. In recent years, US weather forecasting has degraded, and now other countries are able to predict our weather better than we can. This bill will improve our forecasting capabilities and allow us to regain a world class weather prediction system.
In the 114th Congress, the House passed similar legislation (H.R. 1561) by voice vote on May 19, 2015.
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is not currently available. Based on changes made during negotiations with the Senate, this combined legislation authorizes $164 million in fiscal year 2017, $165 million in fiscal year 2018, $6 million in fiscal year 2019, and $6 million in fiscal year 2020, fitting within their current appropriations level.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 2-1374.