PHOTO: U.S. Sen. Schumer has said that inadequate funding of the hurricane tracking system may have led to miscalls on Joaquin’s path. Image Courtesy of NOAA
While the borough may have dodged a weather bullet named Joaquin last week, one New York elected official said that inadequate funding of the country’s hurricane tracking system could have contributed to the miscalculation of the storm’s path.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) last Sunday said that the past underfunding of the federal weather forecasting operation, which includes a fleet of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s satellites high above earth, may have led to several miscalls by U.S. forecasting agencies tracking Hurricane Joaquin along the east coast.
Schumer also revealed that Congress has proposed cuts of $245 million in funding for the construction and maintenance of next-generation weather satellites that are used by experts to better forecast weather and predict storms that can change in destination and strength within hours.
The House of Representatives and Senate appropriations bills, according to Schumer, fail to provide enough funding for the NOAA polar-orbiting weather satellites that continuously scan the planet and provide data on atmospheric winds and moisture; the data is used by meteorologists when predicting weather forecasts up to seven days in advance.
NOAA has warned that, without construction of a new weather satellite, the U.S. will be reliant on only one polar-orbiting satellite. And beginning in 2016, there will be at least a one year gap between the newest polar-orbiting satellite’s design lifetime and the scheduled launch date of a replacement, NOAA officials said. This could significantly impact the agency’s ability to provide advanced notice of weather events.
“In the era of super storms, accurate weather forecasts are not a luxury – they are a necessity. The information we gather on weather from high above the earth translates into safety on the ground,” Schumer said. “It is just plain dumb to cut hundreds of millions from our weather satellite system just when catastrophic storms are getting more extreme and more frequent. Hurricane Joaquin is just the latest example of how crucial these satellites are and that’s why I am launching this push to get our weather system adequately funded.”
Schumer said that the funding cut is concerning for a number of reasons: it could put national security in jeopardy because “we need weather satellites to help better protect the lives of individuals and civilian infrastructure in the event of a major storm;” a delay in satellite construction will end up costing taxpayers more in the long run; and the lack of NOAA funding could impact the economy, because, as Schumer said, the-day-to-day operations of many businesses and families rely heavily on efficient weather data.
By Michael V. Cusenza firstname.lastname@example.org