March 13, 2013

Satellites Aging Out


Jessica: Last fall, government forecasters accurately predicted the path of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that ended up causing massive damage along the East Coast. The advance warning led to mass evacuations which helped save lives.

In large part, the accurate forecast was made possible by a system of five government satellites that orbit the Earth from pole to pole. The satellites send back an endless stream of information on everything from temperature to cloud formations to wind and sea currents. But the system will soon be in danger. Some of the satellites are expected to stop functioning as soon as next year. Replacements are not due to be launched until 2017. This, despite the fact that during 2011 and 2012, the U.S. experienced the worst weather disasters on record.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, considers the pending satellite gap among the top thirty threats facing the federal government. During the gap, the ability to predict the path of major storms will be much harder.

Gene Dodaro: The prediction of the path for superstorm Sandy would have shown it going out to sea and not hitting New Jersey at all.

Jessica: The GAO partly blames the satellite crisis on the government, in particular, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also known as NOAA, which operates the satellites along with NASA and the Pentagon.

NOAA responded with this: “The administration is committed to providing the American public with life- and property-saving forecasts and warnings.”

Yet NOAA and other government agencies are predicted to be affected by budget cuts, which has weather experts forecasting that Americans affected by severe weather could be in even greater danger.

Jessica Kumari, Channel One News.


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