House passes Lucas, Bridenstine bill to bolster severe weather forecasting

The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), received a unanimous passing vote on Tuesday in the House of Representatives.

The bill’s objective is to increase lead times for the detection and warning of looming severe weather, such as tornadoes or hurricanes, or thunderstorms packing heavy winds.

“As Oklahomans, we’re no strangers to the pressing need for forecasting improvement,” Lucas said. “The devastating tornadoes throughout our state’s history serve as a stark reminder that we can do better to provide longer lead times to folks in harm’s way. I’m glad the House acted to pass this bipartisan initiative that will help save lives and reduce property damage. Every minute counts in disaster preparation.”

The legislation ensures that funding at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is channeled into programs that will prioritize the most advanced computer models, data and forecasting equipment. Essentially, better forecasting results in more preparation time and more opportunity to move to safety, particularly in areas such as the Oklahoma, where inclement weather occurs frequently.

The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act will create a joint technology transfer fund, which will implement new forecasting and models developed through NOAA’s Weather Research Program into operational forecasting. It also establishes a pilot program to encourage more data acquisition from the various commercial technologies currently available. The legislation also mandates the development of a program dedicated to the improvement of tornado warning systems.

“Weather forecasting is not a partisan issue,” Bridenstine said. “I am grateful to my House colleagues for recognizing the importance of improving our understanding of weather in order to better safeguard our constituents. I look forward to working with our Senate counterparts and encourage them to take up H.R. 1561 so that we can send legislation to the president’s desk, setting in motion improvements needed to better predict weather, and save lives and property.”