Our Aging Weather Satellites Put Us at Risk
We almost went 'partly blind' just before Sandy hit: Jeffrey Kluger
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Oct 30, 2012 1:59 PM CDT
An image provided by NOAA, made by the GOES-East satellite, shows Hurricane Irene as it nears the East coast Wednesday Aug. 25, 2011.   (AP Photo/NOAA)

(Newser) – With Hurricane Sandy upon us, it's time to take a hard look at our weather-predicting capabilities and the aging satellites that we depend on, writes Jeffrey Kluger in Time. Just last month—shortly before Sandy developed—one such satellite, dubbed GOES-East, began sending out a weak signal. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were lucky enough to have a backup satellite. But if they hadn't, America's forecasting abilities would have gone "partly blind." It's a sign of the times: "There is a coming decline," says a meteorological expert.

We're dependent on a small group of satellites, and "thanks to budget cuts, short-sighted federal planning and the natural life-and-death cycle of satellites, they’re all at risk," Kluger writes. Replacing a satellite can take years—and hundreds of millions of dollars. That's a lot, given that NASA's full annual earth sciences budget is less than $1.5 billion. Yet the equipment offers good bang for the buck: With natural disasters occurring every few years, we save $5 for every dollar we spend on the devices. And the alternative is frightening: "The projected loss of observing capability will have profound consequences on science and society," says another expert. "Our ability to understand changes in Earth’s climate and life support systems will also degrade." Read the full piece here.

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Showing 3 of 15 comments
Oct 31, 2012 12:53 AM CDT
two storms happened to merge and create a very big storm...it happens. either that or obama accidentally put his magical ocean-lowering machine in reverse !
Oct 30, 2012 9:37 PM CDT
Bush's FEMA director Michael "Brownie" criticizes Obama for responding to Hurricane Sandy too quickly. http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/10/30/1110901/bush-fema-director-katrina-hits-obama-sandy/
Oct 30, 2012 5:54 PM CDT
In 2006 I was hired by ITT in Ft.Wayne IN to help design the next generation of weather satellites that would advance the state of the art by using laser beams to scan the night time weather of the planet Earth. (If you haven't noticed there IS NO night time weather satellite view never mind the weather don't stop at nite) Since I designed the first 3 LandSat MSS scanners it was a natural for me to do the night weather satellite but the RepubliCON Bush adm needed money to run their 2 wars (military uses a LOT OF FUEL) so the weather satellite projects were cancelled, never mind it would DOUBLE our weather coverage, not just daylight hours. As a result, I was laid off and haven't worked since- had to go into retirement at age 66- thks to Bush Adm. And then his SEC removed the 1937 Uptick Rule to trigger a Great Recession and STEAL 90% of wealth of middle class like me tied up in our home equity- w/friends like that in the White House, who needs enemies?