Washington, D.C. – Today in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) offered legislation aimed at expanding the scientific understanding and forecasting of space weather, the naturally occurring variations in the space environment between the sun and the Earth. The bill passed the Committee on voice vote.
The legislation, cosponsored by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), designates the National Space Council and a new National Committee for Space Weather Observation and Forecasting with space weather research and forecasting responsibilities along with the academic community and the commercial sector.
“Space weather events can cause great damage to our infrastructure and our economy,” said Perlmutter. “Colorado’s research community and federal laboratories stand ready to enhance our understanding of space weather events and improve our forecasting abilities. This legislation will better coordinate federal research investments with our operational forecasters who provide warnings to those impacted by weather events and ensure our academic and commercial partners are working hand in hand to improve space weather forecasting.”
Specifically, the legislation tasks the National Space Council with establishing national priorities for space weather within six months of enactment. It also requires the newly created National Committee for Space Weather Observation and Forecasting to develop a National Space Weather Plan within nine months of enactment to implement those national priorities and delineate appropriate roles among the federal agencies involved in space weather. The Office of Science and Technology Policy will be required to develop a National Space Weather Research Roadmap within one year of enactment to plan federal space weather research. Together these three tasks will encourage more collaboration between federal agencies, the academic community, and the commercial sector and build upon the National Space Weather Strategy and National Space Weather Action Plan released in 2015.
In addition, the legislation creates a pilot program for the purchase and validation of commercial sector space weather data to determine the ability of forecasters to incorporate this data into their models and forecasts. The bill also encourages the sharing of information between the research community and operational forecasters to improve new technologies, models and forecasts.
“Given the growing national importance and reliance on technology, it is critical we expand our scientific understanding of the interactions between the sun and Earth so we can improve forecasting and mitigate the effects of space weather events,” continued Perlmutter.
Space weather can have a significant economic, societal, national security, and health implications both here on Earth and in space. Lloyds of London estimates a worst-case scenario space weather event could cost up to $2.6 trillion and impact as many as 40 million people by causing outages at electric utilities, disrupting GPS and communication networks and forcing airlines to reroute air traffic.