Investing more money in tornado research would be a disaster

Tornado photo
Aurora, Mo. tornado, May 4, 2003 (NWS photo)

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus recently wrote an article for “Slate” in which he criticizes a bill in Congress that would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, parent agency of the National Weather Service) to spend more on improving forecasts of “high impact weather events” like tornadoes and hurricanes.

On its face, the bill sounds like a good idea and you might wonder why anyone would oppose making tornado and hurricane forecasts better.

But Holthaus correctly writes that the bill would force NOAA to spend less on improving forecasts of lower-profile weather and climate disasters that, in aggregate, kill dozens of times more people per year.

I’ve noticed that it’s not unusual for lawmakers to pass bills that make it look to the general public like the we are better protected from some harm when those laws really don’t enhance our safety as much as they improve lawmakers’ chances for reelection. This appears to be an example of that.

I highly recommend that you read Holthaus’ article and then consider contacting your U.S. representative. Tell your congressman that the House should not pass H.R.2413, the “Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2014,” unless Congress also provides additional funding for its mandates, so that research into more deadly, lower-impact events does not suffer.