Washington, D.C. – The Environment Subcommittee today held a hearing to examine opportunities to leverage the private sector to improve U.S. weather forecasts. The hearing also examined how sources of weather data are utilized domestically and shared internationally under global data agreements.
Data streams from multiple observing systems are essential to maintaining up-to-date information to predict weather accurately, especially for extreme weather events like tornadoes and severe storms. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Deputy Administrator Manson Brown testified today on the agency’s weather data policies and acquisition strategies. With a high potential for coverage gaps from NOAA’s planned geostationary and polar orbiting satellite systems, it is critical to ensure continuous streams of weather data to protect citizens, property and safeguard the American economy.
Environment Subcommittee Chairman Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.): “A gap in satellite data availability remains a very real threat. NOAA is taking the proper steps to mitigate this, but we still may be faced with an unprecedented gap in crucial weather data. A competitive, commercial market for weather data could drive innovation, reduce costs and increase the quantity and quality of data.”
NOAA relies upon different technologies, observing systems, and partnerships for data that is constantly available for use in formulating forecasts and predicting weather events to protect lives and property.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Severe weather routinely affects large portions of the United States. This year we already have seen the devastating effects of tornados across our country, especially in Texas and Oklahoma. My home state of Texas also has seen record breaking flooding that caused widespread damage and loss of life in my district. We must do everything we can to save lives and protect property from severe weather events. It is time for us to bring our weather forecasting systems into the 21st century.”
An understanding of NOAA’s data policies is crucial as the agency evolves to take advantage of more data sources and methods of collection. NOAA has expressed interest in purchasing space-based weather data from the private sector. This led to a pilot project within NOAA to competitively select at least one provider of space-based data to test it against NOAA’s proprietary data. This pilot program was included in H.R. 1561, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2015, introduced by Committee Vice-Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bridenstine, which unanimously passed the House of Representatives in May.
For more information on today’s hearing, including witness testimony and the hearing webcast, visit the Committee’s website.