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Senators Schatz and Thune Introduce Weather Legislation Focused on Improving Seasonal Forecasting

Seasonal Forecasts Are Defined In The Bill As Periods Over Two Weeks But Less Than Two Years

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee member Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) today announced the introduction of S. 1331, the Seasonal Forecasting Improvement Act. The legislative proposal directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to improve seasonal forecasts – defined in the bill as periods over two weeks but less than two years.

“Seasonal forecasts save lives and protect livelihoods,” said Senator Schatz.  “Knowing about an active hurricane season in advance can make all the difference to prepare families and communities.  With better information on the seasonal time scale, businesses as diverse as tourism, farming, and construction can plan ahead so people have jobs to return to after severe weather.  Our legislation gives NOAA the tools to improve and expand its forecasting research, giving Hawai‘i families, businesses, and local governments the information they need to plan ahead."

“Meaningful strides in longer-term forecasting appear within reach,  but it will require a concerted effort that draws on existing models, data, research, and technology,” said Senator Thune. “Once achieved, seasonal forecasting will offer warnings about unusually cold winters, hot summers, drought, and other longer term weather trends. This information will aid Americans from many walks of life – from farmers looking to make informed decisions on crop planning to local governments stocking up on supplies to treat icy roads.”

The pathway to improvements proposed in the legislation are based on NOAA’s existing National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), which provides valuable information about drought status, and brings together federal, state, and local stakeholders to ensure the information is relevant and useable.

S. 1331 also includes provisions reforming satellite procurement by NOAA to a focus on best value that includes the ability of equipment to integrate with current ground and space systems. The legislation authorizes appropriations through fiscal year 2020, provides for a review of current weather research programs and establishes a panel of science and engineering efforts to advise and assess weather forecast projects.

The Senate Commerce Committee has broad jurisdiction over NOAA and other agencies related to weather forecasting.