Washington, D.C. – Today U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter applauded a hearing in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee aimed at educating members and focusing the committee on advancing space weather research and forecasting capabilities. The hearing included testimony from three experts, including Bill Murtagh, Program Coordinator for NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado.
“Colorado has some of the best minds, laboratories and research institutions on space weather in the country. That is why I’ve been interested in this issue and pursuing legislation to help the academic and commercial sector best contribute and participate in our space weather enterprise.”
Perlmutter first introduced H.R. 3086, the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act in 2017 which passed out of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in 2018. In addition, the Senate companion bill (S. 141), spearheaded by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), passed the Senate in the 115th Congress.
This hearing helped inform additional updates to the legislation before re-introduction in the House with Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL-05). During the hearing, Perlmutter asked several questions regarding the use of Space Weather Prediction Center forecasts, space weather needs by the military, the current process for how research findings are informing and improving space weather operations, and the role of Congress to support research and preparedness for space weather.
The bill would strengthen space weather research by directing federal agencies to develop new tools and technologies to improve forecasting and set benchmark standards to measure space weather disturbances and their potential impacts to Earth. The legislation outlines clear roles and responsibilities for the federal agencies which study and predict space weather events, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Defense (DOD). Additionally, the legislation enhances the relationships between federal agencies, academic researchers and the commercial industry.
“The overarching goal is to better coordinate federal research investments with our operational forecasters who provide warnings to impacted industries and ensure our academic, international, and commercial partners are working hand in hand to improve space weather forecasting,” said Perlmutter. “Space weather events can cause great damage to our infrastructure and our economy, and we need to make sure we are all working together to have the best research and prediction capabilities possible.”
Space weather has the potential to impact our infrastructure and could significantly disrupt the economy. 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.