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Panic Over Failing QuikSCAT Satellite Overblown 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the glad-that's-all-worked-out dept.
daeg writes "We previously read and discussed about the aging QuikSCAT weather satellite used to help predict tropical storms. It turns out that the panic is likely overblown and the loss of the satellite won't have any dramatic effects on forecasting at all. Some in the National Hurricane Center are now calling for Director Proenza's resignation over this and his overall handling of the center."
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Panic Over Failing QuikSCAT Satellite Overblown

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  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:08AM (#19752687) Homepage Journal

    ...and Bill Proenza is right. You won't get the resources if you don't scream for them. It makes you look bad, but the sad fact is that there is only one way to get the attention of Government and it is closely related to the thinkofthechildren meme.

    Make a case, exaggerate if you have to. Get the resources when you are able to make the argument. Don't wait until it is too late.

    • Is that, the public sooner or later gets wise to it, and that undermines all of science. In the USA, we've seen a number of scientists argue all manner of shocking things in order to get funding, and all that has done is undermine science altogether.

      We have seen proclamations of the end of all mankind if we do not research something, that it almost seems miraculous that we are still here at all, becuase we obviously haven't researched everything. Noted cynically, the last 50 years has seen a bevy of failed pronouncements by members of the academic community:

      a) The asteroid will hit us at any second.
      b) We're real close on nuclear fusion.
      c) We'll have nuclear power in everything from planes and ships to cars.
      d) A cure for cancer is right around the corner.
      e) We've mastered bacteriological illnesses and we're real close to conquering the virus.
      f) The sea has an inexhaustable supply of fish, if we would just harness that we could feed the world.
      g) The planet is cooling down, and we're headed for an ice age.
      h) Global warming will cause more hurricanes.
      i) Eat plenty of eggs and cheese.

      Instead, we haven't been hit by an asteroid, nuclear fusion is still decades away, nuclear power has been destroyed by

      To make matters worse, people see scientists as just another kind of smart people, like doctors and lawyers. People already have a growing distrust of western medicine, witness the rise of alternative medicine. And nobody trusts lawyers.

      The best approach for any scientist looking for funding is to tell the truth, and simply, and not to over-sensationalize things. That way, when something does need to be sensationalized, such as global warming, people will actually believe it, and right now, they don't.

      Why else, might you ask, would 10,000 scientists, from the UN, argue for action, meaning research dollars, on global warning, only to fall on deaf ears.
      • by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:44AM (#19752911) Homepage Journal
        You might enjoy the following books. Be warned, they are subversive. You may wind up with an understanding of science less like that conveyed by a diet of Fox News (strange, skewed, and vaguely hostile). These are fun to read and very accessible.

        Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman [wikipedia.org]
        Chaos [around.com]
        The Selfish Gene [google.com]
        Why Flip a Coin? [amazon.com]
        • I've read them (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@nosPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday July 05, 2007 @09:08AM (#19753105) Homepage Journal
          Chaos by Gleick is one of my all time favorite books of science for laiety, but it was much more fun to grab a couple of fractals equations off of the internet and run them myself. "Surely you are joking", is another great book. I hope that if my son decides to build a cyclotron, I'll have the money to help him do it.

          I write in a voice as the slashdot spokesman of the right wing, largely becuase I think its safe to say that I am the only Bush support on slashdot that can program in assembly language and is also self effacing enough to take my politics not too seriously. The reason, in all seriousness, is to not try and change your mind about your preferred economic system, because I can't, but at least that, if there are people like me to build some bridges of understanding, we can work together and over time put some of the political wars behind us and work for a better quality of life for all NATO members.

          The thing though, is that, the left assumes that because we on the right are critical of science, that we do not support it.

          Far from it!

          If anything, right wingers support science even MORE. First off, we have a relentless need for new products that only scientific research can genuinely provide. Then, to get that product around the globe we've needed advances in everything from transportation to logistics, bringing in jet aircraft, super sized ships, massive cranes, computers, containers, along the way. Finally, to ensure that the reach of our consumer free trading system is global, we pour hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars every year into military research, so that, if we can't reason our way into our superior system, we can at least help those who are more backwards still to see the light.

          Along the way of doing all this, we righties have learned that scientists use the sky is falling argument. And yes, we certainly understand that even if an experiment fails, the knowledge gained has some intrinsic value so therefor, at some level, its ok to say that the planet might freeze up, only to later learn that it might warm up. But, on the opposite side, we have shareholders (each other), our customers and employees, and they demand that planes fly farther, cheaper and faster, ships that hold more, goods delivered on an increasingly accurate schedule, and new products to be released on time, and so, at some point, the pure asthetic gain of knowledge gained must yield to the current demand for practical results.

          I certainly agree that you wouldn't expect to hear this on Fox News, but the reality is, most of us weller to do right wingers, even far righties like me who still support President Bush, watch the likes of Fox really more for entertainment, and view the likes of Hannity and Rush in the same kind of people as Howard Stern - shock jocks but not real values. For real news, we listen to NPR or read CNN's web site, the WSJ, the Economist, Scientific American, Discover, and yes, gasp, Slashdot.

          Incidentally, this whole globalalization thing is a vision, actually, we stole from your liberal Roosevelt. We of course wanted to have protected markets but saw that the war which resulted was a disaster, and realized that if capital could flow everywhere on the planet, we could get really rich. We were the original isolationists, and now your side is. And, from you liberals, we learned that change is not so bad, in fact, change is really good, because, where there is change, there is opportunity, and where there is opportunity, there is profits.

          That lesson, my friend, you liberals have seem to have forgotten, and if you rediscover it, pat yourselves on your back for one thing. Roosevelt's vision worked and the world is richer than it has ever been for it. You were right about that.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by tjstork (137384)
            The other thing too, is that, the right wing is a diverse group, just as much as the left wing is. For us, we have a coalition of religious types and free market libertarian types. I fall into the latter. So, yeah, the thing to do is to understand that the vast majority of we Republicans are actually deists in practice - that is, God made the universe some however many billions of years ago, and set it off to the races, and that everything science has discovered is actually, well valid.

            However, there is
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by rossifer (581396)

              The other thing too, is that, the right wing is a diverse group, just as much as the left wing is. For us, we have a coalition of religious types and free market libertarian types. I fall into the latter.

              This is what I find interesting. In your previous post, you label yourself a Bush supporter, and in this post, you label yourself a libertarian. I also label myself a libertarian, and I find Bush's corporatist factionalism, authoritarian leanings and complete lack of any fiscal responsibility to be comple

          • by Xiroth (917768)
            Just a slight tangent first off: How can any thinking person define themselves as 'right' or 'left'? Seriously. I'm a trade liberal (i.e. pro-free trade), a commercial operating environment moderate (see Ordoliberalism [wikipedia.org]), and a fiscal conservative. So am I left or right? Or maybe I have a range of opinions on multiple topics which are mine, rather than following whatever 'my crowd' is cheering for. Maybe there is a description out that I fit neatly into, but I certainly don't feel any need to belong to a gro
            • The way you think about issues don't define whether you're right or left. The way you think about issues is just a product of whether you're right or left.

              You can't describe yourself as a fiscal conservative and a pro-corporate social liberal. Those are your conclusions about the issues that flow from what you are. Don't tell us what you conclude, tell us what you are and that will explain WHY you make the conclusions.

              It drives me nuts when people think in such a shallow fashion and then wonder how a thinki
              • by Xiroth (917768)
                You...I...Ow! Brain hurts!

                You're either a genius beyond my level of comprehension, or you're freaking nuts. I'm not sure that I'm qualified to say which.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by cyphercell (843398)

                  The way you think about issues is just a product of whether you're right or left.

                  Oh, he's nuts alright. This puts political theory in the same category as say, sex and race, for example, I was born a white male, which affects the way I think about issues.

                  I think this line of thought is perpetuated by the neo-conservatives, they aren't republican in nature after all, they have hi-jacked the GOP and the definition of "conservative" has changed from meaning "fiscally responsible" to "good American Christian". Now we have a colossal debt and arm-chair religious based science being taugh

                  • You're not getting what I'm saying. You're not a "white male" because that's not a unified category, and it's not the foundation of anything. Same goes for sex and race. "White male" is a description of physical appearance, not what you are. Bill Gates is a white male. So are some of the people who beg on street corners. They are not the same, thus white male is not useful as a category.

                    I'm asking things like this: are you a man who takes care of his own family and think that you're not a good man if you le
                    • I miss understood. You're saying I'm naturally left, because I grew up without money. And you're naturally right because you grew up with money. (Of course I don't know which is which, nor do I understand if you are talking about something completely different than money.)

                      While I agree that upbringing has a lot to do with how you grow up, I sincerely believe biology also plays a part in who or what a person is, problem is you can only summarize these differences when there is a whole lot of evidence. After

                    • No, sorry, you still don't get it.

                      I'm just saying that your positions on issues aren't what you are. Your basic moral beliefs determine your positions on issues, and in that sense define what you are.

                      I'm not talking about what you're born as or some nonsense like that. I'm just pointing out that what you personally consider to be right and wrong (your moral beliefs) determine what your positions on issues are.

                      Tying that back to the original discussion, that's why I don't understand it when people say they a
              • The way you think about issues don't define whether you're right or left. The way you think about issues is just a product of whether you're right or left.

                You can't describe yourself as a fiscal conservative and a pro-corporate social liberal. Those are your conclusions about the issues that flow from what you are. Don't tell us what you conclude, tell us what you are and that will explain WHY you make the conclusions.

                It drives me nuts when people think in such a shallow fashion and then wonder how a thinking person can believe in some particular idea.

                Thank you. Excellent point. I think there's an excellent basis for morality with two simple rules, one of them you learned in elementary school. #1 Golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. #2 Wiccan reed: And it harm none, do what thou wilt. A third rule can be added just for clarification: your right to swing your fist ends where mine begins.

                From such a simple premise you can work up an entire self-consistent and healthy morality. You could write books exploring the ideas in detail

                • But, that ignores moral priorities. One thing that drives my liberal friends nuts is thinking about the banning of burkhas. They've got to decide which moral value is more important to them - freedom of speech and religious expression, or the right of a woman to show her actual nose in public.

                  Your little simplification of morality doesn't cause a single "correct morality" to arise. This issue is completely unaddressed, thus there are at least two correct and consistent solutions to the moral formula you pre
            • by BJZQ8 (644168)
              The problem is that to get all of this wonderful clean environmentally-friendly energy you talk about requires the shackling of the free market. The free market should be determined by prices, supply, and demand, not an amorphous government committee made up of elite eggheads. "Entire new industries" will be opened up, but they will be industries in the states of well-connected congressmen, and they will not be well-managed industries if they are created by the government. The goals of higher energy-effe
              • by oneiron (716313)
                Shackling of the free market? Are you crazy? Can you tell me how, exactly, OPEC fits into your concept of a free market? It's a cartel, and in order to save the free market, it needs to be in shackles. Alternatively, we could use government assistance to augment existing free-market industries to compete with it.

                Fortunately, it looks like there's a new energy cartel in town. Fight fire with fire, I guess:

                In November 8, 2006, Green Star Products has announced that it has signed an agreement with De
                • by BJZQ8 (644168)
                  I don't think that OPEC is a free market; but they only produce something like 45 percent of world oil. In any case, OPEC has very limited control over its own pricing; its producers regularly flaunt overproduction in violation of quotas...that's the market at work. When oil prices neared $80 per barrel, it was interesting to me how many long-dormant oil wells started pumping again. That's in western Illinois, where oil production hasn't been serious for 30 years.

                  Still, I'm very glad to see the biodiesel
              • by tjstork (137384)
                Fair enough, but sometimes, and on rare occasions, the free market needs a kick in the ass. It doesn't mean you bail on it altogether, but, once in a generation, it gets stuck on something. So, you basically do the switch to nukes + electric, with subsidies, research, etc, and then, let the free market roll.
              • So, do you favor passing the costs of pollution on to those same over the road trucking companies, minimizing the externalities and causing them to realize the entire cost of their operation? Because, unless you do, how can the free market make a decision in this case?

                • by BJZQ8 (644168)
                  I think that "costs of pollution" is a nebulous figure. How do you monetize pollution? Do you count the cost of a hurricane that hits New Orleans, and blame it on OTR truckers? The costs of pollution are already passed on to truckers...if they produce global warming, then it will certainly bother profitibility at some point, and the market will react. If they produce noxious gases, then they will be sued by sick employees, or perhaps simply have health costs passed to them through taxes. The point I'm
            • by tjstork (137384)
              Here's the way I see things. Global warming and all of this other eco stuff most assuredly has an element of a sneaking socialism in it. BUT, even if you can convince yourself that rising CO2 doesn't change climate, and can convince yourself that people aren't responsible for it anyway, the indisputable scientific fact is that we have direct measurements of CO2 rising in the earth's atmosphere.

              That's a big deal. SO, I see it as, like, yeah, there's a big dog shit on the floor, and I could pretend that it
            • The self-description of "right" or "left" or "Democrat" or "Republican" is a short, simple statement by which you describe the things you're willing to sacrifice in order to get the things you think are really important. Not everyone who votes republican has the same agenda, but on balance, the platform is an acceptable compromise to them to enact or prevent some or all of the goals of the Democrats, who organized on similar principles, but with different goals. At least on paper.

              All of the labels are, re
          • by DrDitto (962751)
            The parent makes several good points. The Democratic takeover of congress put the large Bush-backed boost in NSF funding on hold. This was a big blow to many of us relying on a large boost in NSF funding to carry on our research. I'm going to greatly generalize here, but the Democrats prefer funding life sciences (i.e. finding a cure for cancer) whereas Republicans generally prefer non-life-sciences funding in areas of physics, mathematics, computing, etc.
          • by malakai (136531)
            Me Too.

            You are not alone.
          • If anything, right wingers support science even MORE. First off, we have a relentless need for new products that only scientific research can genuinely provide. Then, to get that product around the globe we've needed advances in everything from transportation to logistics, bringing in jet aircraft, super sized ships, massive cranes, computers, containers, along the way. Finally, to ensure that the reach of our consumer free trading system is global, we pour hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars every year into military research, so that, if we can't reason our way into our superior system, we can at least help those who are more backwards still to see the light.

            Greed and might makes right.

            • Greed and might makes right
              "You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone." - Al Capone
          • Extreme right wing followers argue that the pure free market will solve "all" of our problems, by increasing the wealth of society. Followers of the extreme left (communism) argue that market forces are evil and should be banished, since they lead to an uneven distribution of wealth in society. Both of these positions are extremist ideologies that have little to do with what happens in the real world.

            An ideology is a set of ideas which purports to define how the world works. Examples might include pure

            • Pure free market capitalism is extremely useful in ensuring that goods and services are properly distributed in a society.

              I would argue capitalism is extremely useful in ensuring efficient production of goods & services, not distribution. Extreme example is capitalism will keep the bread out of a starving person's mouth because there is a marginal loss of producing one more loaf. That is not to say capitalism is evil, because efficiency is vital for the overall economy to function effectively.
              Like you

          • I write in a voice as the slashdot spokesman of the right wing, largely becuase I think its safe to say that I am the only Bush support on slashdot that can program in assembly language and is also self effacing enough to take my politics not too seriously.

            Hey, I can program in assembly! Well, MIPS assembly, so I guess that doesn't count... :P

            and view the likes of Hannity and Rush in the same kind of people as Howard Stern - shock jocks but not real values.

            Well I'll agree on Hannity mostly, I'm sick of

        • And as an added plus, if you read "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman," you'll learn how he patented all three examples in your point c: "c) We'll have nuclear power in everything from planes and ships to cars.", and then sold the patents for a dollar apiece. Which, considering it only took him ~10 seconds a piece to patent, was a good salary in the 1940's.

      • by Silver Sloth (770927) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @09:22AM (#19753207)
        I feel that the problem lies deeper than that.

        With modern information technology we live in a world where, in order that we may keep up with the input, it has to be reduced to soundbites and oversimplifications. It doesn't matter if it's science, or politics, or medicine, the information has to fit in a two minute portion of the evening news and it has to shout pretty loud to be heard in the first place.

        Because of this oversimplification complex truths become simple lies, and, as the simple lies fail to come true the complex truths behind them are seen as untrue. The end result is a breakdown in trust such that nobody trusts anybody any more. Whereas the teacher, the banker, the politician, the policeman were all seen as pillars of society, nowadays they're all suffering from mistrust and lack of respect. It is in this climate that such beliefs as Intelegent Design can grow.

        Now, if only I knew what to do about it...
        • by tjstork (137384)
          The thing that you have to do is encourage an education in the arts to go with the sciences. The arts, to some extent, bound the sciences and lay context to them. Science gives a million facts, but art, I've concluded, is the glue that holds it all together. You can have a computer program of a few hundred thousands of lines that simulates an economic system, but you still need a Madison to write: "We the people, in order to perform a more perfect union".

          I will tell you this though : If I see one more "i
      • by LWATCDR (28044)
        Okay..
        "a) The asteroid will hit us at any second." Asteroids have hit us. And will continue to. I never heard any scientists say a big one will hit to tomorrow. Want proof that they do hit the earth? I suggest a trip to meteor crater.
        "b) We're real close on nuclear fusion." We have nuclear fusion. We just haven't passes break even plus enough of a surplus to make it practical. This is a large long term project.
        "c) We'll have nuclear power in everything from planes and ships to cars." We have it in ships
      • by Vellmont (569020)
        Funny, I can only recall two of the dire predictions you're referencing, both of which likely have some truth to them. Namely:

        g) The planet is cooling down, and we're headed for an ice age.

        Global dimming is very real, and has a strong mitigating fact on global warming. I don't know about ice ages here, or who was promoting this whole thing, but I'll bet this was just a popular media hysteria (more below).

        h) Global warming will cause more hurricanes.

        What I've heard is that global warming will cause more in
      • Your list fails to distinguish failed pronouncements by members of the academic community from failed pronouncements by a large portion of the academic community. If some random scientist says something and is wrong, do you blame the scientist as untrustworthy, or do you blame yourself for taking the word of a single scientist with a preliminary theory, instead waiting for followup confirmatory research, debate, and widespread acceptance among scientists?

        Note too that a scientist who says something and is
      • This is one reason why government shouldn't fund R&D unless it applies to defense.
    • Has anyone noticed that a panicked Congress is proposing to rape the hurricane hunter budget to put up a new satellite?

      Answer me this: which gives you better data, a plane flying through a hurricane, or a satellite a zillion miles up that only reports surface winds?

      Whatever the merits of replacing this satellite, this director is going about it the wrong way. When you have five lead forecasters, one is on vacation, one is critical but not to the point of publicly calling for his removal, and remaing th

    • by houghi (78078)
      So basicaly you tell that you should yell WOLF all the time? Sounds like a great plan.
  • blah (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:10AM (#19752695)
    god, who thought that name up?
    • The traffic signal system I worked on was called Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System.

    • QuikScat name origin (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      SCAT comes from Scatterometer (which is what the instrument is). Quik comes from the speed with which the spacecraft and instrument came together.

      QS was created to fill a gap when the satellite carrying it's predecessor (NSCAT) failed after 6 months on orbit. There was already another scatterometer being built (Seawinds) which was scheduled to launch a few years later on ADEOS-II. They took spares from that instrument, found a spare launch vehicle (Titan II) found a spacecraft (Ball BCP2000), and cobbled
    • by infinite9 (319274)
      I don't know, but that satellite must be some fast shit.
  • "the loss of the satellite won't have any dramatic effects on forecasting"

    Since the primary method of weather forcast seems to be rolling the dice, I would agree with the statement.

  • by Werrismys (764601) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:11AM (#19752709)
    Too much time on the internet... +1 childish.
  • No effect? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:13AM (#19752735)
    So, if the satellite was so worthless that it will have no effect on weather forecasting, why did we bother supporting it?

    The answer is either:

    A) They are spinning the loss and trying to blame it on the squealer.
    or
    B) Weather forecasting is so useless, nothing could affect how accurate it is.

    Reading the article, I find that they are critical of the report he used with only 19 samples. The satellite hasn't existed long, and major storms are -not- that common. How the hell was he supposed to get more data? It's his -job- to do the best he can with what little data he has, especially since we're talking about one of the most imprecise and unpredictable sciences there have ever been: Weather forecasting.

    So, the situations stands thus: He tried to warn people that the satellite, which provided valuable data (even if exagerated in usefulness) was going to fall. He was warned to shut up about it. Satellite falls, and now they want to fire him for it.

    I can't see in any way, shape or form how this was his -fault-, only that he tried desperately to get someone to do something about it. Since he can't fly, and doesn't have the money to send up a space shuttle, he did the best he could.

    Did he overstate the importance of the satellite? Probably. Does that matter a whit? Nope.
    • by tjstork (137384)
      Didn't Lorenz already determine decades ago that weather is a chaotic system, such that, we couldn't possibly build enough monitoring stations to actually get the weather more accurate than a week out? If the weather satellite could effectively sample the earth and extend the forecast out by a couple of days, then it is a big deal. But, probably, at best it might add a few hours to the precision, and therefor, is not such a big deal.

      Seriously, such forecasting is already governed by a law of math that is
      • Re:No effect? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:54AM (#19752989) Homepage Journal

        Didn't Lorenz already determine decades ago that weather is a chaotic system, such that, we couldn't possibly build enough monitoring stations to actually get the weather more accurate than a week out? If the weather satellite could effectively sample the earth and extend the forecast out by a couple of days, then it is a big deal. But, probably, at best it might add a few hours to the precision, and therefor, is not such a big deal.


        Actually, even a few hours makes a big difference with tropical storms. A few hours advanced notice could mean the difference between people evacuating before the storm arrives or evacuating at the last minute, as the hurricane makes landfall. This time is the most dangerous and many, many people die or get badly injured trying to run away from a hurricane that's right on top of them. Take note: I live in Florida.

        • by tjstork (137384)
          That's a really good point, and all kidding aside, they should just fix the frigging satellite. How much could it be? A billion dollars? Christ, we'll piss that away on my fearless fuhrer's (oops, I mean, my fellow Republican President) fucked up adventure in Iraq in a few days. Toss it onto the big Chinese loan, I say. It's not like we're ever going to pay them back!
          • by daeg (828071)
            Likely not fixable. It wasn't designed to be a long-lived satellite. It was a quick "get these instruments into space" satellite. The replacement, now delayed to 2016, was supposed to be the more robust, advanced replacement.
            • by tjstork (137384)
              From whose budget does the satellite come? Is that a NASA thing or does the NOAA have its own budget for satellites?
      • by Torvaun (1040898)
        Want to know what it will take to get perfect meaningful weather forecasting? Read Asimov's Caves of Steel.
    • Re:No effect? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by canUbeleiveIT (787307) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:26AM (#19752819)
      So, if the satellite was so worthless that it will have no effect on weather forecasting, why did we bother supporting it?

      The answer is either:

      A) They are spinning the loss and trying to blame it on the squealer. or
      B) Weather forecasting is so useless, nothing could affect how accurate it is.

      C) Or something else entirely that you don't know about.

      Seriously, don't you think that falls under the heading of a false dilemma [wikipedia.org]?
      • Re:No effect? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LordPhantom (763327) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:54AM (#19752985)
        Hmm.... I don't think he's that off-base in those two choices...but it could have been better said. He's saying "Either the guy is competent at his job, or he is not" in a creative way - in short, either the guy did his job and they're trying to nail him for it, or he didn't do his job and pitched panic over a useless satellite.

        The option he missed was that it might be that the guy's job was to pitch useless junk, and they decided that they didn't like it ;)
      • It's only a false dilemma if there really is a reasonable option C. Do you have one? If not, it seems to be a bit off-base to hurl accusations of logical fallacies.

        (His argument may still be incorrect, but then it's for lack of data, not for poor logic.)
        • It's only a false dilemma if there really is a reasonable option C. Do you have one?

          Could be this:
          FTA: ''The public debate has been extremely one-sided,'' said Franklin, who has been at the center since 1999 and with NOAA since 1982. ``Bill is viewed as a hero in the media for speaking up against NOAA management and he is portrayed as having the support of his staff.

          ''But the hurricane specialists, by and large, do not agree with much of what he has done,'' Franklin said.


          Or this:
          FTA: He, his co
          • I don't think that any of those are relevant to the question actually asked and to which two answers were proposed. The question, as I read it, was about the merits of the satellite and why it was ever supported at all, not about the merits of the person.

            Now, there probably are other options to answer that question than the two proposed. I'm simply saying that claiming it's a false dilemma without providing other reasonable choices to show that this is the case is a rather poor rhetorical ploy.
    • If I remember correctly, the most accurate forecast you can make is "the weather tomorrow will be the same as today".

      So probably every little bit helps.
    • The key from the Wunder Blog is these 2 quotes:

      Why the focus on track forecast errors in landfalling situations, when QuikSCAT was widely known to be used in intensity forecasting and for tropical cyclones too far at sea to be accessed by the Hurricane Hunters?

      The two longest-lived storms during the test period were Fabian and Isabel, storms that spent the majority of their lifetimes far away from land. Since the quality of the observing network increases close to land, particulary when reconnaissance data

    • by iabervon (1971)
      The satellite is somewhat useful for predicting the intensity, but not the tracks, of cyclones. It's useful for giving storm warnings for non-tropical storms. It's useful for research which improves future forecasts. The complaint is not that QuikSCAT is useless (in fact, the senior forecaster who wrote the article has been calling for a replacement for a long time); it's that it isn't the most important resource threatened by lack of funding. It's also that it would be better to get an improved version up
    • They have treated him to a pop inspection, kind of like they did Iraq before the invasion:

      Federal officials are expected today to finish a surprise inspection of the hurricane center, to see if it can fulfill its mission under Bill Proenza.

      Want to bet the result is a smear job?

      The attacks on the integrity of his policy shows up the problems of scientific publishing more than it does anything else. Jeff Master's [wunderground.com] critiques look solid, but he points to a big problem:

      It will probably appear in the October-

      • Was Weather Underground involved in the weather service scandal? I thought it was just AccuWeather and CWSA? My understanding is that Weather Underground relies heavily on NWS's free data and is a strong supporter of the NWS. Am I mistaken?
        • They claimed to be victims at the time [wunderground.com], (and the article appears at archive.org so it's not a fake), but so what? One way they are appeasing their benefactor. The other way, they are under duress. Either way they can be manipulated.

          If that were the only problem, it could be ignored, but the rest of the story is rotten too. Raids, posturing and gags are all made to cover up things that stink.

          The larger pattern is an administration that's corrupt, abusive and thin skinned. I was willing to ignore ea

          • Everyone can be manipulated, in principle. However, you have given no justification for your claim that anything Jeff Masters says should be automatically "suspect", other than simple paranoia. You certainly have given no justification for your claim that Weather Underground tried to cripple free updates from the NWS. That's pretty much libel.
            • by twitter (104583)

              You certainly have given no justification for your claim that Weather Underground tried to cripple free updates from the NWS. That's pretty much libel.

              Being wrong is not libel. Rather than argue with you, I looked what you said up reported the result. It's easy to confuse actions of similar companies which all use the same business model and those other companies did indeed try to create special formats for government weather information so that they could sell it.

              I'd like to believe that Weather Un

              • I'd like to believe that Weather Underground is still on the free side of things but that's something for you to prove in the face of an obvious conflict of interest.

                No, it's not something for me to prove. Weather Underground's words and actions have supported the free weather data of NWS. It's up to you to demonstrate otherwise. Nor is there any "conflict of interest" causing them to fail to be on the free side of things, since they themselves make use of NWS's free data services. If anything, their interests lie in supporting free NWS data, in order to keep them competitive with their closed-data competitors like AccuWeather.

                Masters is siding with a smear job.

                You have neither established the exis

              • I should also note that Masters has argued that the QuikSCAT funding can be used for even more important Earth observation programs. Framing his position as "Masters supports the degradation of data" is dishonest.
      • Weather Underground, because of the Weather Service Scandal is a suspect source of information. They did their best to cripple free updates from the national weather service and I'm still angry at them for it.

        Why are you mad at Weather Underground? You're thinking of Accuweather and the other people. If you follow a link from that slashdot story you'll see that Weather Underground is not listed as a member [weatherindustry.org] of CWSA [weatherindustry.org].
    • So, if the satellite was so worthless that it will have no effect on weather forecasting, why did we bother supporting it?

      It's very useful - just not for the purpose Bill Proenza claimed it was. (A claim now shown to be suspect.) The satellite is actually designed (and mostly used) for studying storms beyond the reach of the Hurricane Hunter aircraft, and serves that purpose admirably.

      Reading the article, I find that they are critical of the report he used with only 19 samples. The satell

      • by Aladrin (926209)
        "Nobody held a gun to his head and threatened him"

        Some people don't -need- people to hold a gun to their head to get them to do what they believe is right.

        "It doesn't matter to you that (assuming you are a US taxpayer) "

        Did he -know- they were false? Did he do it on purpose? It's also a matter of degree here. (I'm making a few assumptions here, but...) He had a choice. He could watch this potentially hazardous situation and do nothing more about it (as he was ordered to), or he could pull as many facts
    • by Prysorra (1040518)
      I assume you were hoping more a more direct answer.

      Weather satellites have a lot of "swarm" capabilities that can be organized from the ground control stations. Other than things like wide area surveillance system (pre-positioned stationary network), satellite networks cover each other and purposely overlap.

      The extent of such an ability to redistribute task loads is unknown to me, but it's enough that this article was written, but enough of a stress that someone open their big fat mouth.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      So, if the satellite was so worthless that it will have no effect on weather forecasting, why did we bother supporting it?

      Well according to TFA, QuickSCAT does a better job of gathering data for hurricanes far out at sea, particularly in areas where bouys and hurricane hunter aircraft aren't available. "QuickSCAT data is invaluable in identifying weak systems and in defining storm structure, particularly of outer wind radii of 34 knots and 50 knots. This is particularly true outside of the Atlantic, where there are no Hurricane Hunter flights, and in the Atlantic beyond where the Hurricane Hunters can reach. Track forecasts

  • by cerberusss (660701) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:24AM (#19752801) Homepage Journal
    The only thing this blog writer concentrates on, is whether the precise quote of Proenza is correct or not.

    It's not important. Proenza probably dumbed down/oversimplified on his statement and that's a good thing, because he is the main fundraiser for his institute. It should be slightly over the top. He's a fucking salesman, and Congress damn well knows this.

    It's not important at all to say "yeah well, it's not quite accurate and why didn't he give a measure of uncertainty" blah blah.

    Point is, the QuickSCAT satellite is used for lots of things, among them crossreferencing data of other satellites when the accuracy of those isn't up to snuff.

    Satellites get older. Sensors decay due to cosmic rays damaging sensor pixels. Models use multiple inputs of data and when one satellite heavily degrades, that's a loss for science.
    • by Rich0 (548339)
      It should be slightly over the top. He's a fucking salesman, and Congress damn well knows this.

      If I hire somebody to work for me, I want them to tell me the facts, not be a salesperson for his little empire against the needs of the greater organization. If I'm the CEO of a fortune-500 company and I'm told that some manufacturing plant is about to have serious problems without a cash infusion and that would mean a halt in production of a key product, then I'm going to go ahead and lay off 1000 people in R
      • Your analogy is flawed. It's not a company. It's a semi-government organization. Have you worked in one of those? The directors basically spend their time calling, writing, meeting, lobbying, everything they have to do to get that funding in.

        And I don't know enough about the circumstances, but the satellite isn't comparable to luxurious offices or even a salary raise for his people. You're hyperboling to get your point across, but it's
        • by Rich0 (548339)
          It's a semi-government organization. Have you worked in one of those? The directors basically spend their time calling, writing, meeting, lobbying, everything they have to do to get that funding in.

          No, and I agree. However, I think that such behavior should be strongly punished to put a stop to it.

          The NWS exists to serve the taxpayers. If it is in the interest of the taxpayers to have a fancy satellite then he should make an accurate and realistic case for it. The DoD should make accurate and realistic
          • In my opinion, you're missing the shades of grey here. Call me crazy, but I see it as a game of negotiation. I think the director's tight on budgets. Maybe he got shortened, or maybe the budget froze. Or maybe they need to overrun this year's budget to make a big investment -- who knows. Anyway, he refreshed some relations, talked to officials and guess what, it's set in stone and he has to bite the bullet, or so he's told.

            Like the good political game player, he seeks publicity. He doesn't make it too ro
        • ... over the top. (Pressed submit too quickly.
  • Heh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Scottoest (1081663) <[moc.egapmab] [ta] [ttocs]> on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:25AM (#19752807) Homepage
    I wonder if the QuikSCAT satellite detected the resulting shitstorm from this.

    *ducks*

    I'll be here 'till Friday. Try the clam chowder.

    - Scott
  • A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and it creates a cyclone over Bangladesh two weeks later. A weather satellite falls from the orbit and a director gets fired two weeks later...
  • by Luscious868 (679143) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:35AM (#19752867)
    Overblown panic in a Slashdot story? Well color me surprised .....
  • Makes me wonder what other skies aren't really falling either. This sort of thing, I wish scientists could see only undermines scientists more.

    There was once a great piece on NPR, in which a scientist admitted that he wouldn't debate right wingers because they were better with people than he was. This right winger's first word of advice would be, to tell the truth and not overstate things, unless, you are planning to topple an oil rich dictator.
  • No way (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kohath (38547) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:37AM (#19752883)
    You mean a mainstream media story was over-hyped to the point of it being more-or-less false?
  • by Bucc5062 (856482) <bucc5062@gm a i l . com> on Thursday July 05, 2007 @09:02AM (#19753043)
    I did a rare thing here in /. land, I read the article (at least one of the links. Take the last line of the Tampa article:

    "The director of the National Weather Service has told Proenza to be more tactful within the bureaucracy and more moderate in his public comments."

    So, here is a manager who was outspoken in trying to get/save funding for a center who's funds are being slashed, who tried to explain to the public the value of technology to weather forecasting and what would happen without it and the response is....tone it down?

    Hell, I'd quit, find a nice home in Oz or New Zealand, and laugh as the US slowly crumbles away.

    As proud as I am of the heritage of this country, I am saddened, disheartened, and at times disgusted with it current crop of leaders and citizens. 500 billion and counting (can't even speak of of the human cost) for a shithole conflict that will have done squat for security of this country, yet we cannot fund basic universal healthcare, we cannot fund programs who's job is to monitor and protect our own shores (USCG/Police/Fire), and we slash funding on systems that would provide some measure of early warning to people living in harms way.

    While good folk try to warn, our *elected* officials play See no evil, Speak no evil, Hear no evil...but have no problem with Do Evil.

    the fiddling sounds just a bit closer today.

       
    • by N8F8 (4562)
      The space Shuttle program will cost at least $174 billion and the ISS $140 billion by 2010. Think of all the starving babies.
  • Peer Review (Score:2, Informative)

    The commentary from the author seems uneven. For example, the author first states,

    I contacted one of the authors, who informed my that the study was submitted for publication on January 26, 2007, and accepted for publication in the journal Weather and Forecasting on May 23, 2007. It will probably appear in the October-November time frame, according to the publisher. This raises an immediate problem, since only a privileged few are able to read unpublished research. This limits the possibilities for an inf

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mparker762 (315146)
      If you read further the author does bring up the issue of peer review:

      ...the study cited by Proenza has undergone peer review, and is thus the only scientific study one can use to make arguments on QuikSCAT's effectiveness. The Goerss study has not been published in a journal, and has not undergone peer review. However, Proenza was making his QuikSCAT accuracy arguments in March, two months before the Zapotocny study he cited had been accepted for publication.

      The fact that the Zapotocny study has been peer-

    • A peer reviewed paper is not the same as a blog, or even a poster paper. It has to pass critical and adversarial review by experts.

      Until the paper is published, we don't really know if there's an apples-to-apples comparison here. Right off the bat, the "more comprehensive" data used by the poster (the only thing we have to go on here) makes me question whether it is relevant to this discussion, because it lacks an analysis of baseline accuracy broken down by region. It is likely that the peer reviewed pa
  • by brennz (715237) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @11:23AM (#19754481)
    (Disclaimer: I work for NOAA)

    I am not sure about the mode by which Bill P raised the alarm on the upcoming loss of weather satellites. I do think his message was correct though - to raise the profile on what he sees as a critical issue - the issue of proper funding for NOAA and satellite capabilities. NOAA does so much, with so little... We are stretched incredibly thin compared to other agencies.... I don't believe Dr. Jeff Masters had access to the all the data Bill P used in his decision to go public. People disagree with how he did it and it made more work for the NWS PR people.

    Jeff Masters is also advocating the replacement of QuickSCAT with a "next-generation" scatterometer, one that has greatly improved capabilities to help tackle the structure and intensity problem"..... I hope Dr. Masters isn't trying to recreate the NPOESS problem [space.com] by linking a satellite needed now to a high-risk/experimental sensor because it sure sounds like it.
  • I don't think I would panic over a satellite named after SCAT [wikipedia.org].
  • ... were people are selling sex toys in a VR world, the name of this satellite just seems wrong! (ROTFLOL)
  • After seeing a propaganda piece on The Weather Channel about this I knew exactly what they were up to. After Peter Weiss passed away in 2005 [1] Bush and his cronies have been chomping at the bit to restrict public access to US government weather data. They cite concerns over "security" and complaining that they are competing with the shareholders of Accuweather. Never mind that the US taxpayer already paid to collect the data...

    [1]http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/nwsfocus/fs20050815 _weiss.htm
  • Welcome to America; if you speak the truth, you will be smeared, so just shut your mouth and don't rock the boat. Honestly, this is a blog putting out a smear job; he cites a POSTER as being more reliable than a peer-reviewed study? Give me a break.

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