Subcommittee Emphasizes Importance of National Weather Service

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
Posted: Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing titled, “Private Sector Weather Forecasting: Assessing Products and Technologies.” The purpose of this hearing was to discuss how the ongoing partnership between the National Weather Service (NWS), academic institutions, and the private weather industry may evolve to meet the diverse needs of the public.

NWS provides core support for weather collecting industries by collecting essential data and creating foundational models. NWS has a forecast model that is publicly available and is supported by data which is free and openly accessible.

Ranking Member of the Environment Subcommittee, Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), said in her opening statement, “The three sectors that make up the weather enterprise – private, public, and academic – work collectively to meet the needs of the public, inspire growth and innovation, and protect life and property. To maintain the progress we have made over the last decade, we must explore opportunities to leverage expertise across these sectors. More can be done by NOAA and the Weather Service to strengthen this partnership and keep us on a path of serving the public even better.

“If, however, Congress were to reduce the role of one sector, or shift responsibilities without considering how such a change might affect the entire enterprise, we risk upsetting the balance and losing the progress so many have worked so hard to achieve.”

Minority witness, Dr. Antonio Busalacchi, Director of the Earth System Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Maryland, and incoming President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, stated in his written testimony: “Equally important is that the government currently and regularly distributes forecasts over multiple domains and time scales; across short, medium, and long range; from global to regional, and across atmospheric, ocean, coastal, hurricane, land surface and space weather domains. Given we are dealing with a coupled atmosphere-ocean-land system, to forecast for one domain, you ultimately need a system that functions well across space and time scales; i.e., a seamless approach to forecasting for which NCAR is helping to lead the way in this regard… Many of these domain and time specific forecasts are not currently attempted by the private sector. As private companies are profit driven, remote areas with low economic value may be neglected and underserved by the private sector if there is no government effort. The government must maintain, entrain, and obtain the capability and talent to perform well these modeling efforts.”

Members and witnesses discussed the important role of government weather data, models, and forecasts to catalyze private sector advancements and serve as a consistent and reliable baseline for the weather community. Furthermore, Members examined the importance of ensuring privately collected data and privately developed models are properly validated through a transparent process to ensure forecast reliability. They also discussed how NOAA is at the forefront of supercomputing capabilities, the importance of adequately funding NOAA to maintain this position, and the need for a comprehensive strategy to ensure gains are not lost.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “Despite the claims by some that we must ‘disaggregate’ the weather enterprise, it is very clear to me that the existing partnership between these three sectors has made our weather forecasts more reliable and more accurate.” She continued, “It should be noted that NWS weather data has enabled the growth of a significant ‘value-added’ industry. There may be ways that the private sector can complement and support NWS’s mission, but I am very skeptical that transferring NWS’s responsibilities to the private sector is either wise or necessary, and I do not support doing so. Finally, I would have hoped the Majority would have invited NOAA and the Weather Service to participate at this hearing. I look forward to hearing their perspective at another time.”


Mr. Barry Myers, CEO, AccuWeather
Mr. Jim Block, Chief Meteorological Officer, Schneider Electric
Dr. Neil Jacobs, Chief Scientist, Panasonic Weather Solutions, Panasonic
Dr. Antonio Busalacchi, Director, Earth System Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland
Dr. Sandy MacDonald, Director, Numerical Weather Prediction, Spire Global

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