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New weather research law will improve U.S. safety and economic competitiveness

New funding authorization won bipartisan backing

Jan 30, 2019 - by David Hosansky

Major new weather legislation, signed into law this month by President Trump following bipartisan approval in Congress, will improve the accuracy and timeliness of weather forecasts to keep society safer while strengthening U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

"This pivotal law will usher in a new era of forecasting that will enable us to better anticipate tomorrow's weather, as well as likely weather patterns months or even years in the future," said Antonio Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). "The overwhelming bipartisan support highlights the recognition that improving weather prediction is a national priority."

The new law enhances the ability of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop partnerships with research institutions and private companies in ways that will accelerate advances in satellites, weather models, and high-performance computing. It establishes an Earth Prediction Innovation Center for the research community to develop new computer model technology that NOAA’s National Weather Service will integrate into next-generation weather models.

The law builds on the 2017 Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act to improve subseasonal to seasonal forecasts that are increasingly vital for economic growth. It also will enhance long-term forecasts of drought and water risks, and support soil moisture observations to better help farmers.

The law, titled the National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act, authorizes $167.5 million over six years for these and related initiatives.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., sponsored the legislation at the end of last year. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, led the effort in the House with backing by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas.

"We are very appreciative of the work by Senator Thune, Representative Smith, Representative Johnson, and all the supporters in the Senate and House," Busalacchi said. "We in the research community look forward to working with our partners in NOAA and the growing commercial weather industry to advance forecasts in ways that will enhance the safety and prosperity of the nation."

UCAR is a nonprofit consortium of 117 colleges and universities focused on research and training in the Earth system sciences.

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