The nation’s weather satellite program is threatened by federal budget cuts which could rob the U.S. of critical satellites. This would mean less accurate advance warnings about blizzards and tornadoes that seem to be becoming more frequent and deadly.
Backbone of Forecasting
According to officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the potential loss of satellites that orbit the poles will make predicting weather trends in advance of more than a couple of days impossible. For instance, satellite information that allowed forecasters to alert Alabama and Mississippi about the tornado threat back in April came five days earlier than would have been possible without the satellite information.
One important polar satellite will reach the end of its expected life span in 2016, resulting in a critical coverage gap. To explore the possible consequences, NOAA used storm data from last winter’s “Snowmageddon” to see if they could predict a storm of similar magnitude in several years. They were shocked to discover that their ability to accurately predict snowfall amounts on the Eastern Seaboard was compromised to the factor of 2.
What that would mean for a city like Washington D.C. is that snowfall amounts would be double what forecasters predicted. A snowfall prediction of 15 inches would really mean 30 inches of snow.
Though funding is an issue, there also have been program delays and issues with producing necessary technology for the new satellites, but the real issue is that Americans and businesses rely on long range forecasts more than ever. With the vast geography, mountain ranges and oceans on three sides, the U.S. has the most varied weather in the world.
What Do You Think?
It seems that infrastructure ranks last by every measure in Congress these days but in an age of climate change, should our weather satellite system be a victim of budget cutting?