TORNADO Act advances to enhance forecasting and warning times.

Bipartisan TORNADO Act Passes Senate Committee, Aims to Improve Tornado Forecasting and Warning Times

A new bipartisan bill, the TORNADO Act, has passed the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, with the aim of improving understanding, forecasting, and warning times for tornadoes and severe weather. The bill was reintroduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and colleagues from both sides of the aisle, and would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to update methods for predicting and issuing weather alerts.

Protecting Lives and Property

Sen. Wicker introduced the TORNADO Act to help protect against future loss of life and property, stating that improved forecasting is the best way to give residents more time to seek shelter. The legislation would require NOAA to prepare and submit an action plan for national implementation of “high-resolution probabilistic guidance for tornado forecasting and prediction.”

Updating the EF Scale

The TORNADO Act would also encourage NOAA to evaluate the current tornado rating system, the Enhanced Fujita Scale or EF Scale, and make updates. The EF Scale became operational in 2007 and is used to assign a tornado a ‘rating’ based on estimations of wind speed and surveys of damage. The original Fujita Scale was updated to better determine wind speeds based on ground examinations and surveys of damage. “The [EF] scale has to do with how most structures are designed,” according to NOAA.

Optimizing Data Collection and Sharing

Further stipulations of the legislation would require NOAA to “coordinate with appropriate entities when conducting post-storm assessments to optimize data collection, sharing, and integration.” Sen. Wicker emphasized that even when tornadoes are well-forecasted, warnings do not always provide enough lead time to ensure the public can respond or seek appropriate shelter. The TORNADO Act would improve the forecasting and understanding of these natural disasters so we can prevent future loss of life and property.

Continuing Advances in Weather Forecasting

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi noted that great advances in weather forecasting in recent decades have helped save lives, but more can and should be done to alert people when tornadoes threaten their lives. The TORNADO Act would be useful in helping provide greater support for NOAA and its research partners, like the University of Mississippi, to advance tornado forecasting and warning times.

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