April 18, 2011

Weather Forecasting Satellites Cut

The NY Times reports that the budget deal moving through Capitol Hill slashes funds for a satellite program considered vital for the nation's weather forecasting.

Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, warned at a Senate hearing on Wednesday that the cutbacks would probably lead to a serious gap in satellite data, undermining National Weather Service forecasts.

Dr. Lubchenco warned that even if Congress restarted the program, the government would probably wind up spending $3 or $4 for every dollar saved by halting it this year. "We have to cancel the contracts — we have to let people go," she said. "These are very sophisticated, skilled workers. Then you need to bring the programs back up."
Satellites and other government-run instruments provide virtually all weather data used to make forecasts in the United States, including those on television, radio and in newspapers. Like all satellites, weather satellites wear out and have to be replaced regularly. Planning and building them takes years, and any hiccup in that program means the government can lose access to vital data a few years down the road.
Inaccurate weather forecasts regarding major weather events like hurricanes and tornados can lead to serious loss of life and property damage. 
The satellites are yet one more target of the anti-global warming lawmakers who have decided they would rather not fund weather satellites that provide much of the data used by climate scientists. 

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