Subcommittee Reviews Legislation to Improve Weather Forecasting

May 23, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Environment today held a hearing to examine ways to improve weather forecasting at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Witnesses provided testimony on draft legislation that would prioritize weather-related research at NOAA, in accordance with its critical mission to protect lives and property through enhanced weather forecasting. The hearing was timely given the recent severe tornadoes in the mid-west and super-storms like Hurricane Sandy.

Environment Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah): “We need a world-class system of weather prediction in the United States – one, as the National Academy of Sciences recently put it, that is ‘second to none.’ We can thank the hard-working men and women at  NOAA and their partners throughout the weather enterprise for the great strides that have been made in forecasting in recent decades.  But we can do better. And it’s not enough to blame failures on programming or sequestration or lack of other resources. As the events in Moore, Oklahoma have demonstrated, we have to do better. But the good news is that we can.”

Experts within the weather community have raised concern that the U.S. models for weather prediction have fallen behind Europe and other parts of the world in predicting weather events. The Weather Forecasting Improvement Act, draft legislation discussed at today’s hearing, would build upon the down payment made by Congress following Hurricane Sandy and restore the U.S. as a leader in this field through expanded computing capacity and data assimilation techniques.

Rep. Stewart: “The people of Moore, Oklahoma received a tornado warning 16 minutes before the twister struck their town. Tornado forecasting is difficult but lead times for storms have become gradually better. The draft legislation would prioritize investments in technology being developed at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory in Oklahoma, which ‘has the potential to provide revolutionary improvements in… tornado… warning lead times and accuracy, reducing false alarms’ and could move us toward the goal of being able to ‘warn on forecast.’”

The following witnesses testified today:

Mr. Barry Myers, Chief Executive Officer, AccuWeather, Inc.

Mr. Jon Kirchner, President, GeoOptics, Inc.