Weather disasters in the U.S. in 2011 carried a $52 billion price tag. What’s more, the University Center for Atmospheric Research estimates day-to-day weather flucations cost nearly half a trillion dollars each year.

A coalition of meteorology leaders asked Congress today to create the first-ever U.S. Weather Commission to confront the costs of weather on the U.S. economy and its toll on human lives.

The University Center for Atmospheric Research, which helped to convene the Congressional briefing, says the commission “would advise federal policymakers on setting priorities for improving forecasts and creating a more weather-proof nation.”

More specifically, the commission would educate Congress on the appropriate satellite and radar investments, research priorities, and the needs of key sectors, UCAR says.

For example, the U.S. may face a gap in weather satellite coverage in 2017. A recent report of the National Academy of Sciences warned “our ability to observe and understand the Earth” will decline unless needed investments in satellites are made.

At the same time, the U.S. is lagging the Europeans in numerical weather prediction and the computing resources necessary to improve forecasts. Such a commission might help make critical recommendations for prioritizing funding.

UCAR notes Congress has twice established an ocean commission, but that - to date - a weather commission has never been created.

At today’s Congressional briefing, representatives from a coalition of groups stressed the potential benefits of such a commission.

“Improved weather information can be an engine for economic growth,” said panelist William Gail, chief technology officer of Global Weather Corporation. “As we develop increasingly detailed understanding of our atmosphere, there is enormous potential for helping the public and businesses.”

The coalition is aiming to have a commission set-up in 2013 and intends to follow today’s event with Congressional staff and member briefings.

Link: Weather Channel video on proposed commission, includes interview with Thomas Bogdan, UCAR president