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Monday, May 23, 2011

Republicans cut funding for life-saving weather satellites

by Kiley Kroh, Climate Progress, May 23, 2011

Climate Progress reported in March that NOAA said GOP’s proposed satellite funding cuts could halve accuracy of precipitation forecasts.   CAP’s Kiley Kroh updates the story.

HurricaneEarlier this year, Congressional Republicans decided accurate weather forecasting and hurricane tracking were services the American people could live without. The GOP-sponsored 2011 spending bill slashed the budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, slashing $700 million targeted for an overhaul of the nation’s aging environmental satellite system. NOAA scientists have stated unequivocally the existing satellites will fail and if they aren’t replaced, the agency’s ability to provide life-saving information to the American people will be compromised. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator, told reporters yesterday that the agency’s hurricane outlook last year was “spot-on” and cautioned that “not having satellites and applying their latest capabilities could spell disaster“:

Satellites are a must-have when it comes to detecting and tracking dangerous tropical weather. Not having satellites and their capabilities could spell disaster. NOAA’s satellites underpin hurricane forecasts by providing meteorological data over vast areas where we don’t have other means of information.
Highlighting the critical need for accurate forecasting, yesterday NOAA released their annual hurricane forecast predicting yet another “above-normal” hurricane season. This year, Americans can expect up to 18 named storms and as many as six that could become category five hurricanes. Last year’s hurricane season was one of the busiest on record and that is a trend we can expect to continue. Rising ocean temperatures have been found to increase the frequency and intensity of hurricanes – and this year, ocean temperatures are four degrees higher than normal. These alarming trends aren’t limited to hurricanes – scientists have found that as a result of climate change, killer weather is now the “new normal.”

“Because we have insufficient funds in the ’11 budget, we are likely looking at a period of time a few years down the road where we will not be able to do the severe storm warnings and long-term weather forecasts that people have come to expect today,” Lubchenco said.

Though the GOP got their way this year, the battle over NOAA’s budget is far from over – if funding isn’t restored, the federal government will be limited in its ability to anticipate devastating storms and warn the citizens in harm’s way. Will the GOP be so dismissive of American lives the second time around?

– Kiley Kroh, Associate Director for Ocean Communications at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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