It’s not very often that a reference librarian gets to attend a House Science Committee briefing, but this week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend one. Being the self-proclaimed weather gal at the Library, I was thrilled when an invitation to attend a committee briefing related to weather was forwarded to me by my section head, Constance Carter. Sponsored by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the Weather Coalition, the expert panel discussed the need for the first-ever U.S. Weather Commission.
Generally speaking, a congressional commission is a body that is to study and investigate a problem, issue, or event; give independent advice; and make recommendations for public policy. It is a multi-member independent entity established and appointed by Congress, exists temporarily, serves in an advisory capacity, and reports to Congress. Since 1989, there have been over 90 congressional commissions established that focus on policy, investigations or commemorations. Recent science-related commissions include the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development.
During the briefing, I learned about the diverse cast of players in federal agencies, research communities, industry, and state / local governments that provide weather expertise and their desire to have an organized focal point among them that will combine efforts and share responsibilities. The briefing highlighted how dangerous and costly weather can be to our livelihoods. It also referenced the 2012 National Academies report Weather Services for the Nation: Becoming Second to None, which discusses the need for improvements to the National Weather Service.
In short, the panel of experts believes that a U.S. Weather Commission “would advise federal policymakers on setting priorities for improving forecasts and creating a more weather-proof nation.”