Satellites are on the chopping block – key to weather forecasting Hamilton 6/17 (Jon, writer @ NPR, http://www.npr.org/2011/06/17/137251742/blind-eye-in-the-sky-weather-satellites-lose-funding?ps=cprs) JPG
Government officials are forecasting a turbulent future for the nation's weather satellite program. Federal budget cuts are threatening to leave the U.S. without some critical satellites, the officials say, and that could mean less accurate warnings about events like tornadoes and blizzards. In particular, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are concerned about satellites that orbit over the earth's poles rather than remaining over a fixed spot along the equator. - Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Deputy Administrator These satellites are "the backbone" of any forecast beyond a couple of days, says Kathryn Sullivan, assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction, and NOAA's deputy administrator. It was data from polar satellites that alerted forecasters to the risk of tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi back in April, Sullivan says. "With the polar satellites currently in place we were able to give those communities five days' heads up," she says. But that level of precision could diminish in the next few years, Sullivan says. One important NOAA satellite in a polar orbit will reach the end of its expected life around 2016. And its replacement has been delayed by a continuing resolution passed by Congress that limits the agency's ability to pursue its new Joint Polar Satellite System. Sullivan says that means there could be more than a year when the nation is lacking a crucial eye in the sky. "If we go blind, if there actually is a gap between the last satellite and this, it certainly will erode the reliability and accuracy of our forecasts," she says. To find out how bad the problem might be, the National Weather Service re-examined one of its great forecasting successes: the 2010 blizzard known as "Snowmageddon." The agency wanted to know what would happen if a similar blizzard arrived several years from now, when several satellites are likely to be out of commission, says National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes. "We were quite surprised at the finding that we would underestimate the amount of snowfall the Eastern Seaboard had, specifically in the Washington, D.C., area, by a factor of 2," Hayes says. In other words, areas where forecasts called for 15 inches would actually get 30 inches. Budget problems aren't the only reason NOAA's next polar satellite is behind schedule. A previous version of the program was scrapped, and NOAA has had trouble getting some of the new satellite's cutting-edge technology finished on time. But Hayes says this sort of technology is precisely what's made forecasting more accurate with each new generation of satellites. NASA officials are also concerned about the next generation of weather satellites. The agency will play an important role in building them and also supplements data from NOAA weather satellites with data from its own research satellites. "It used to be that weather was just something that happened," says Michael Freilich, who directs the earth science division at NASA. Now, he says, people and businesses make specific plans based on what forecasters say. "When they say that it's going to be hot and sunny, companies make economic decisions," he says. For example, he says, utilities decide how much electricity they need to produce, airlines decide whether to cancel flights, schools decide whether to close, and insurance companies anticipate damage claims from things like hurricanes and hailstorms. Other nations also fly polar satellites, and that can help fill the gap when U.S. units fail, officials say. But it's not enough, they say. "The United States, by virtue of our size, the mountains, the oceans on three sides, we have the widest array and greatest frequency of weather phenomena and severe weather phenomena of any country on the planet," Sullivan says. Some tweaks to NOAA's current budget could minimize delays to the polar satellite program, she says. Whether the agency is allowed to do that is up to Congress, which will also decide what happens to spending on polar satellites next year.
Satellites Internals – $ing = Cuts
Satellite spending is coming, but controversial – New spending causes cuts which kill effectiveness
As my colleagues Eric Lichtblau, Ron Nixon and I report in summary form in Thursday morning’s paper, the budget deal moving through Capitol Hill slashes funds that the Obama administration requested for a satellite program considered vital for the nation’s weather forecasting. That raises the prospect of less accurate forecasts and other problems, some of them potentially life-threatening, starting in 2016. 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. Research by her agency suggests that without the type of capability that the proposed satellites were expected to provide, the weather service might fumble forecasts of future events similar to the huge snowstorms that hit Washington and New York the last two winters. “It’s a big risk,” said Daniel Sobien, head of the union that represents government weather forecasters. Forecasters would still have access to data from satellites not affected by the cutbacks, but those would offer less detailed coverage of the country, which is why the weather forecasts would become less accurate.The potential coverage gap would be limited to 18 months or so — but only if Congress agreed to restore as much as $1 billion in funds needed for the satellite program in the budget year that begins in October. Many people on Capitol Hill, including some Republicans, support doing that, but given the pressures on the budget and the political tensions over federal spending, that is by no means a certainty. So the situation raises the prospect of a deterioration in weather forecasts that might last for years.
Satellite programs are under fire – Spending trades-off – Cutbacks kill effective programs Gillis 4/14 (Justin, writer @ NYT, http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/weather-satellites-on-the-chopping-block/) JPG
The Obama administration’s recovery efforts have won support in principle on both sides of the aisle, but winning money has beenfarharder in a year when few programs are being spared from cutbacks. It’s not just essential weather information that is at risk, Dr. Lubchenco said in testimony on Wednesday. The weather satellites pick up emergency beacons used by wilderness hikers, boaters and others who venture into remote areas: nearly 300 people were rescued this way in 2010 alone. A gap in satellite coverage could mean that it would take hours longer for rescuers to find people who get into trouble. In some cases, that time interval could be the difference between life and death. “That data gap will have very serious consequences to our ability to do severe-storm warnings, long-term forecasts and search and rescue,” Dr. Lubchenco said.
EOS is on the chopping block
Clark 6 (Stephen, writer @ spaceflight now, 3/3/6, http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0603/03dawn/) JPG
Missions such as Triana - a politically charged Earth observation satellite - have also found their way onto the chopping block as construction neared completion. In 1998, a NASA remote sensing satellite named Clark also fell victim to budget concerns and launch delays. NASA has tried in the past to re-use parts and instruments from abandoned spacecraft on other missions. The future of the Dawn hardware is currently unclear.