Scientists see danger if weather satellite program remains unfunded

Posted by David Gomez

As America prepares itself for what is predicted to be an active hurricane season, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) is calling on Congress to fund weather satellites.

The AGU wants Congress to reinstate funding for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), which yields continuous data for weather forecasting, storm tracking and long-term monitoring. The JPSS saves thousands of lives and billions of dollars each hurricane season.

In addition to asking Congress to reinstate funding for the JPSS, the AGU is also asking Congress to maintain funding to the National Weather Service (NWS), which uses JPSS data to issue forecasts and warnings for adverse weather events.

According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, the 2011 hurricane season across the entire Atlantic Basin is looking like it might be pretty rough. The seasonal outlook, which was released today, forecasts a 70 percent probability of the following ranges:

•    12 to 18 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), of which:

•    6 to 10 could become hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), including:

•    3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

"Last year, adverse weather was the direct cause of nearly 500 deaths, over 7,000 traffic fatalities and more than 700,000 additional injuries on our nation's highways and roads," said AGU Executive Director and CEO Christine McEntee. "Imagine how many more lives could be lost if funding is not restored for the satellite systems that are considered vital for the nation's weather forecasting and storm tracking systems."

The AGU feels that if Congress does not provide the necessary $1.07 billion to the JPSS program, the country will have with a serious gap in satellite data, and you would also have to kiss the two to three day advance warnings of extreme weather events goodbye because there would be no funds to produce those warnings. Also, the NWS needs $988 million to maintain operations.

That’s not a lot of money to ask for anything.

"Funding JPSS is a national preparedness issue," said McEntee. "A gap in satellite coverage could jeopardize everything from agriculture and aviation safety, to the oil and gas industry, to wildfire response and other search and rescue operations."

Quick Thoughts:

You’ve got to love these little financial situations the government gets the nation into. Maybe, just maybe Congress could afford to fund these important weather programs if the government didn’t spend the majority of tax dollars on endless wars in the Middle East?

Now it looks like because of the War on Terror, we won’t be able to fight the terrors of Mother Nature here at home. I don't feel any safe after 10 years of this stuff, do you?