A panel of U.S. weather experts, including the former director of the OU School of Meteorology, told members of the House Science Committee Tuesday that National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts, while of high quality, are not world-best and outlined steps Congress could take to change that.
Dr. Fred Carr, OU Professor Emeritus, helped prepare the congressionally mandated “Priorities for Weather Research” (pronounced ‘power’) report, with the goal of documenting weaknesses in U.S. weather forecasting and recommending investments needed to eliminate them.
“Other global weather models have produced greater forecast accuracy then we have,” said Dr. Carr, referring to European models in his prepared opening remarks. “This gap shows that improved forecasting is possible and thus represents an opportunity for NOAA to serve the nation even better than it does now.”
Dr. Carr and the other panelists made the case to members of the House Science Subcommittee on the Environment that the solution boils down to investing in three things: increased observations and data assimilation, more sophisticated weather forecast models, and high performance computing.
"It’s a very challenging thing to improve forecasting in the U.S.," said Dr. Carr in an interview following the hearing, "it just takes more work, more collaboration, and just takes a little bit more time which causes us to fall behind a little bit."
It also takes more consistent funding. Carr and others on the panel explained that, as helpful as recent supplemental appropriations have been in purchasing needed equipment, it's hard to make long-term plans for improvement without funding certainty. The investment, he says, would pay off.
"If we make the forecast a little bit better, everything else improves down the value chain," said Carr. "You should get a little bit more public safety. If the forecast become better and people realize it, you have more trust in what the forecasters and emergency managers are telling you,"
“Today’s hearing is important,” said Science Committee Ranking Member Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK3), “because it provides a starting point for us to begin discussions about what areas we have improved our knowledge and research as well as gaps we need to address in the future.”