H.R. 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017, is pretty long statute and a little too dense for me since NOAA authorization statutes aren’t exactly my job or anything. It’s difficult to see whether there’s some story behind the story going on here. The point of the new law appears to be to authorize or continue the authorization of programs devoted to research and information-sharing in the area of weather prediction. This is a good thing. Weather prediction should be based on science, not on whether Uncle So-and-so’s lumbago is acting up or whether the cows are standing up or lying down. [For you city folks, if some of the cows are sitting and some are lying down, then it might rain and it might not.] A version has been kicking around since the 114th Congress, so it is free of the Trump Administration’s willful anti-science taint. And I’m all for information sharing, unless what it really means is that the National Weather Service is eventually going to end up a tool of the for-profit private sector weather business. It was sponsored by Rep. Lucas of the Oklahoma 3rd., and you may wonder why an Oklahoma Republican would care much about weather science, but there are two reasons. One is that the Storm Prediction Center is in Norman, OK, which isn’t in the Oklahoma Third, but close enough to it that constituent jobs are at stake. (Here’s a shocker: fiscal conservatives are all for cutting Federal jobs–AS LONG AS THOSE JOBS ARE IN OTHER PEOPLE’S DISTRICTS.) The other is that Oklahoma is particularly prone to extreme weather events, for reasons of geography and science that were once explained to me by a National Weather Service Regional Director back when the NWS was a client but which I can no longer remember.
The upshot is: Better Weather Science Is Good. I would be remiss, however, if I failed to point out that that the NWS’s sister sub-bureau, the Office of Atmospheric Research, is apparently pretty cool when it’s contributing to the kind of science that will give people more time to get to their tornado shelters and otherwise allows people to mitigate the effects of severe weather events, but absolutely evil when it studies climate change. Not that tornadoes and hurricanes and severe storms are in any way related to, say, climate issues. And not that having some idea of the cause of tornadoes and hurricanes and severe storms so as to perhaps be able to prevent at least some of them might be better than just giving people a slightly longer heads-up when they happen.