NIDIS Reauthorization/Weather Research and Forecasting

On January 7, 2019 the President signed S.2200 into law, the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Reauthorization Act (Pub. L. 115-423). The Senate passed the bipartisan legislation unanimously on December 18, and the House passed the bill on December 20 by a vote of 379-9. The bill reauthorizes the NIDIS program (15 U.S.C. §313d), and authorizes a gradual increase in appropriations, from $13.5M for FY2019 up to $14.5M in FY2023. The bill authorizes partnerships with the private sector to improve drought monitoring, forecasting, and communications. It directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop a strategy for a national coordinated soil moisture monitoring network. It also expands the NIDIS program to include partnerships to improve seasonal to sub- seasonal precipitation and temperature forecasts, and low flow water predictions. 

The bill reauthorizes the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act. The bill authorizes gradual increases in appropriations, from $26.5M in FY2019 to $28.5M in FY2023 for the agriculture weather and climate information provisions (15 U.S.C. §8521). For the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) (15 U.S.C. §8519), appropriations are authorized to gradually increase from $136M for FY2019 up to $154M in FY2023. 

OAR is directed to expand the forecasting program by removing barriers and improving collaboration on numerical weather prediction and creating a publicly accessible global weather research modeling system. NOAA is authorized to enter agreements to upgrade its computing capabilities, and to create pilot programs to assess new technology to improve processing speed, cybersecurity, and reliability. NOAA is also directed to analyze, test, plan, and evaluate the value and benefits of future data sources, including cost-effective or disaggregated satellite architectures and corresponding ground system elements, identified in NOAA’s Satellite Observing System Architecture Study. 

The bill authorizes the integration of ocean and coastal sensor data, with infrastructure necessary to share and analyze the data in real-time for predictive early warning systems. The National Weather Service is directed to improve the Cooperative Observer Program–which includes observations of drought conditions, snow, and hazardous weather events–in coordination with States, the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Geological Survey, to support existing programs and increase participation, to leverage opportunities to grow the network, and effective use of infrastructure and weather stations.