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Congressman Mike Johnson

Representing the 4th District of Louisiana

New law aims to improve tornado forecasts, warnings

May 9, 2017
In The News

Last month, President Donald Trump signed the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 into law.

Section 103 of H.R. 353 states that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will establish a program dedicated to improving tornado forecasting and tornado warnings.

In statement only to KSLA News 12, U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson said:

"Louisiana is no stranger to severe weather, be it tornadoes, hurricanes or expansive flooding. We rely on weather forecasts for accurate information during severe weather events so we can better protect our communities and our families.

"The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 supports weather research in an effort to improve forecasts, prioritizing the lives and homes of our neighbors not only here at home, but all across the nation."

Right now, the average tornado warning lead time is 15 to 20 minutes, which is not good enough to Mario Valverde, the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service office in Shreveport.

"I would like them to be an hour," he said.

Even though forecast models are years away from forecasting a developing tornado, new technology still can increase warning lead times.

"[GOES-16] is going to be giving us imagery every minute," said Valverde. "With the new technology we have, we are going to be able to get a lot more data.

"The funding is going to allow us to do some research and make a determination of what we should be looking at. Should we be looking at a one-minute satellite image to make a decision to issue a tornado warning or not? That is research that needs to be done."

Valverde went on to say the NWS could use more storm spotters.

"Radar tells us what's going on in the air. Tornadoes occur on the ground, so the more information we get from ground truth would be more helpful to us."

The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 also requires NOAA to maintain the hurricane forecast improvement program, develop sub-seasonal, seasonal and inter-annual forecasts and conduct a study of gaps in weather radar coverage across the country.