New law aims to protect lives, property by bolstering weather wa - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

New law aims to protect lives, property by bolstering weather warnings

In 2015, three hurricanes were headed toward the Hawaiian Islands at once. None hit the state, however. (Image: NOAA) In 2015, three hurricanes were headed toward the Hawaiian Islands at once. None hit the state, however. (Image: NOAA)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

President Trump has authorized the National Weather Service to do all it can to fine-tune forecasting — and there's now $26.5 million behind the effort.

The immediate goal is for NWS to improve its warning capability to protect lives and property from natural disasters.

"What we want to try to do is to increase our accuracy in the short term. In the meanwhile we may be able to explore extending ouf the forecast a little bit further," said Chris Brenchley, National Weather Service lead meteorologist.

Eventually, that could mean predicting weather patterns years in advance.

"The more data that's available, the more data we get, the more the forecast improves," NWS meteorologist John Bravender said.

The new federal law gives the weather service permission to gather data from other satellites besides its own, and buy the information when necessary.

"We would now start to look at some of the private sector satellites, some of the more research oriented satelites that are being put up," Brenchley said.

Hawaii forecasters want to tap into the state's air quality monitoring network, including measuring sites on the Big Island that could aid in vog alerts. 

"Getting that information will tell us about how the wind patterns are blowing or how those localized effects are handling it," Bravender said.

The new law also calls for integrating more information to predict the path a tropical cyclone or a tornado will take.

Brenchley said the Hawaii office will also rely more heavily on data from University of Hawaii researchers to help with climate and rainfall predictions.

"Precipitation of course is a really big factor here. If we slip into droughts, how long are those droughts going to last?" he said.

The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 also calls for modernizing the nation's tsunami warning system and improving tsunami maps.

Besides collecting information, the Weather Service is now expected to improve how it gets that information to the public.

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