Senator Hutchison Outlines the Need for Increased Research Into Climate and Weather Science

National Science Foundation Expresses Support for Weather Science Research

March 12, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today outlined the need to continue research into climate and weather science and received the support of Dr. Timothy Killeen, Assistant Director of Geosciences at the National Science Foundation.

“Accurate climate and weather science can have substantial benefits for both the private sector and local communities,” said Senator Hutchison.  “It can help local communities plan future development and protect against natural disasters like Hurricanes Rita and Ike.  As my home state of Texas continues to rebuild after Hurricane Ike, a better understanding of climate science and the predictability of atmospheric changes can enable us to make informed decisions to better prepare for future hurricanes.”

Senator Hutchison also discussed the need to promote renewable energy research and development in the areas of wind, wave, solar, geothermal, and biofuels production.  She emphasized the importance of a strong science program to develop these alternative fuel sources and noted that understanding weather patterns is crucial when deploying wind and solar energy technologies.

“We must use sound science to encourage innovation, and cost effective clean energy technologies that can help America reduce greenhouse gases and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Senator Hutchison said. “In the last two Congresses, I have introduced legislation on weather modification research.  Do you agree Dr. Killeen, that we need to have this kind of tracking and research?”

Well, let me first fully agree with you that this is a topic that is worthy of a research effort,” said Dr. Killeen.  “As the planet warms, there are greater rates of evaporation from the world’s ocean.  There is more latent heat, energy that is produced in the atmosphere, and there are greater levels of water vapor, so the whole hydrological cycle is intensified.  That means we get more severe weather at times.  There was a big effort thirty years ago, as you know, to look at weather modification studies and in some ways, that was premature because we didn’t have the observational tools at that time. We didn’t have the polar-metric radar to look at the cloud condensation nuclei and their shapes and to determine the physical processes that lead to precipitation out of clouds.  We now have those kinds of capabilities.  Aircraft, radars, et cetera.  We are much better positioned now than we were thirty years ago to really investigate the physical mechanical processes that drive severe weather events.  I think it’s a very important area and of course it’s connected to climate because of this intensification of the hydrologic cycle that I alluded to.”

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