Aging Satellites Halt Weather Progress
Budget Constraints Could Negatively Impact Weather and Climate Forecasts
Last Updated: 381 days ago
A lack of Congressional funding may lead to a 25% drop in satellite Earth observations over the next few years.Aging weather satellites will limit forecasting abilities if budget problems are not resolved. According to a new report from the National Research Council (NRC), "budgetary shortfalls and cost overruns" may reduce the accuracy in forecasting weather phenomena, natural hazards, and long term climate.The NRC report projects observation programs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to be in jeopardy within the next five years. Projections indicate that in the year 2017, NOAA weather satellites currently in place will have reached the end of their lifetime, a year before they are scheduled to financially be replaced. One weather satellite would remain in place to use for the entire country, a dramatic decrease in ouput data from the typical two satellites currently in use.This decrease in data could affect the accuracy of short term weather predictions, including three-to-seven day forecasts. The NRC report shows that satellite data can reduce forecast error in weather models by up to 16%-18%. This comprehensive satellite data includes variables such as wind speed and wind direction in the upper levels of the atmosphere. NOAA said data from these satellites was critical in forecasting the recent Mid-Atlantic "Snowmageddon".Even more so, financial shortages limit the planned launches of the new satellites due to a lack in "highly reliable affordable" rockets that are required to set the satellites in place. After two failed launches destroyed both the rocket and the weather satellite attached, the obstacle of replacing the aging fleet continues to grow.However, according to Antonio Busalacchi of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Mayland, NOAA and NASA are not the only ones at fault, saying a lack in "national strategy for sustaining long-term environmental space-based observation" is also contributing to the concern. The NRC report called for a reform back in 2007, however, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has not made any progress.Citations from ClimateCentral.org.