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Earth Space The Almighty Buck Science

Weather Satellites Lose Funding 275

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-get-a-job-you-lazy-satellites dept.
ianare writes "Federal budget cuts are threatening to leave the US without some critical satellites, and that could mean less accurate warnings about events like tornadoes and blizzards. In particular, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are concerned about satellites that orbit over the earth's poles rather than remaining over a fixed spot along the equator. These satellites are 'the backbone' of any forecast beyond a couple of days, says Kathryn Sullivan, assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction, and NOAA's deputy administrator. It was data from polar satellites that alerted forecasters to the risk of tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi back in April, Sullivan says. 'With the polar satellites currently in place we were able to give those communities five days' heads up,' she says."
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Weather Satellites Lose Funding

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18, 2011 @06:08PM (#36487182)

    Ham radio enthusiasts have been doing this forever. Point your favorite directional antenna at a weather satellite and download today's weather fax. Not that difficult.

    • Ham radio enthusiasts have been doing this forever. Point your favorite directional antenna at a weather satellite and download today's weather fax. Not that difficult.

      Not that difficult if you have $5000 worth of equipment and 200 hours of spare time to devote to it. Once you have that, it's easy.

      • by NoMaster (142776)

        Well, a couple of hundred bucks plus a fairly lo-noise receiving location with space for a small turnstile or crossed dipole antenna will do it.

        But regardless, what your $200 (or $5000) gets you is the APT transmissions - a low-res 1 or 2 channel image which bears about as much relationship to the images the weather bureau uses for forecasting as YouTube does to Bluray...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DarthBart (640519)

        Bullshit. You can receive APT images from the NOAA-N series of using a $20 homebrew turnstile antenna, a radio scanner, and a Windows/Linux box with a soundcard.

        I think I have $125 invested in my system here.

        • by Hylandr (813770)

          Schematics or it didn't happen...

          ie: Please share, I would love to build one of these...

          - Dan.

          • by DarthBart (640519) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @10:44PM (#36488602)

            I can't find the plans directly online for the turnstile antenna I have, but here's an antenna that actually works a bit better, and probably costs about the same to build:

            http://www.g4ilo.com/qfh.html [g4ilo.com]

            For the radio, I use a Radio Shack PRO-433 scanner I picked up a pawn shop for $50. It doesn't have the IF bandwidth to create perfect images, so I'll eventually upgrade that to an ICOM IC-100.

            For the software, I use a package a friend of mine and I wrote running on a NetBSD server, but there are other packages for Linux and Windows:

            http://www.wxtoimg.com/ [wxtoimg.com] is the first that springs to Google.

            You can also pick up a copy of the Weather Satellite Handbook from ARRL for some other goodies.

    • Ham radio enthusiasts have been doing this forever.

      This may be so. But...

      There are a *LOT* of big-time commercial orgs that make use of government funded weather sats. Maybe it's time that some of the Big Money Bags that make bank off of publicly funded things like the National Weather Service started ponying up a little cash-ola?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        There are a *LOT* of big-time commercial orgs that make use of government funded weather sats.

        And lots and LOTS of small-time commercial orgs, non-commercial orgs, and individuals who make use of government-funded weather satellites.

        Which is why it should be supported by taxpayer money.

        Here in the US we're paying less taxes than we have in the past 60 years. During the "Reagan Recovery" (sic) we were paying about 15 percent more across the board and the top tiers were paying more than that. Corporations w

        • by lexsird (1208192) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @10:30PM (#36488544)

          Let me help you with this. I don't think its the "ideology" that drives them, though this "ideology" certainly is trumpeted. You have to look at motivation and the key term that you used is privatization. Privatization equates to corporate take over. The "ideology" is a smoke screen, its a well crafted piece of propaganda. It plays to sense of greed, hidden in all of us. Its mostly fantasy, much like buying a lottery ticket is.

          What one has to do is see through the obfuscation, the red herrings and the propaganda. Easier said than done, but look at the end game. De-fund something, then it becomes up for grabs. This is a great trick if you can find politicians crooked enough and people dumb enough to fall for it. Sadly we have acres of both. And it isn't getting any better.

        • by Nikkos (544004) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @11:24PM (#36488780) Homepage
          "Here in the US we're paying less taxes than we have in the past 60 years. During the "Reagan Recovery" (sic) we were paying about 15 percent more across the board and the top tiers were paying more than that. Corporations were paying almost twice as much forty years ago than they do today."

          You mean we're paying less per person. While our economy doubled in the same time frame, actual US tax income has actually quadrupled $500Mil -> $2.5 Trillion from 1980 - 2007 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/U.S.-income-taxes-out-of-total-taxes.JPG [wikimedia.org]

          FYI that's well past inflation.

          It's a tired and out of context argument that somehow we needed to keep these top tax rates (as much as 70%!) and that we've shortchanged ourselves, corporations are not paying enough, etc. Instead the truth is we've got about 100 million more people (and many more businesses) in the US than we did in 1980, and with more people you can lower the burden on all. In fact, if we had maintained government spending at 1980's levels (>$1 Trillion) and tracked to inflation we'd be just fine today - in fact we'd have a slight surplus. Instead, despite a doubling of the economy and the quadrupling of tax income, the government sextupled spending (>$1 Tril/year -> $6Tril/year)

          The problem has not been taxes, instead it has been both parties spending far beyond revenues, and taking loans out to pay for it (or just pushing the bills into the future, which is why some reports have us at 70 Trillion in unfunded mandates)

          Should these satellites go away? Probably not. But I'd like to see something else (or everything) cut first rather than to just add more tax burden.
        • by MsGeek (162936)

          And this particular political party also has a vested interest in denying anthropogenic climate disruption. So they defund weather satellites. How utterly convenient!

          BTW, this comment:
          for example, if there were a heavily Democrat-leaning city on a gulf coast protected only by an out-of-date levee
          should be fixed thusly:
          for example, if there were a heavily Democratic Party-leaning city on a gulf coast protected only by an out-of-date levee

          The same political party in question likes to call their opposite numbe

      • by DarthBart (640519) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @08:41PM (#36487942)

        If Big Weather (The Weather Channel, Intellicast, Accuweather, and a few others) start putting money into the system you know damn well that their first requirement will be to lockout anyone else.

        Accuweather tried that one a few years back by buying Rick Santorum and getting him to start legislation (see S. 786) that prohibited the NWS from providing forecasts/data/whatnot to the public if a private corporation (*cough*Accuweather*cough*) could do it instead.

      • There are a *LOT* of big-time commercial orgs that make use of government funded weather sats.

        Weather data is also important to Generals and commercial shipping. My guess, it's not going away any time soon.

    • "The satellites will still be there, just listen in"

      Well, no. Satellites don't last forever. If the satellites don't get replaced when they fail, while they will in some sense "still be there", it won't do you any good to "just listen in;" they won't be broadcasting.

    • by westlake (615356)

      Ham radio enthusiasts have been doing this forever. Point your favorite directional antenna at a weather satellite and download today's weather fax. Not that difficult.

      Are you downloading the raw data or a fax service for ships at sea?

      Information is not a substitute for understanding.

  • by SpaceCracker (939922) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @06:10PM (#36487188)

    it's supposed to be cheaper.

    [Just watch out for Amazon cloud crashes... ;-) ]

  • ICE to keep the IP pirates at bay.

  • by SuperMog2002 (702837) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @06:41PM (#36487320)
    So let me get this straight. We're paying billions upon billions and sacrificing our constitutional rights to guard our airports from purely theoretical terrorist threats. Meanwhile, we're cutting funding for satellites that warn us about very real weather threats. Glad to see we've got our priorities straight.
    • by jd2112 (1535857)
      Of course tornadoes never attack airports... (Other than the one that hit Lambert Field in St. Louis a month or so ago.)
      • Of course tornadoes never attack airports... (Other than the one that hit Lambert Field in St. Louis a month or so ago.)

        Well, see, you've made the case for Homeland Security. Thanks to our enhanced security infrastructure, we can pretty much guarantee that particular tornado will NEVER strike again!

      • by PNutts (199112)

        Of course tornadoes never attack airports...

        It's because they don't last as long as it takes to get through a TSA security checkpoint and there is some concern about small funnels being inapropriately touched.

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      The money is, where it needs to be. Feeding the poor artists and recording (movies/music) executives, shareholders and CEOs of corporations, and politicians.
  • If people are still paying taxes and the population size hasn't become smaller, what is the cause of these budget shortages? Is the military getting more, are there more anti-terror branches, high politician salaries, are we sponsoring private firms, or what?

    I am not an economist so beyond what the media says, I would be interested in some insight.

    • by Teun (17872)
      Because the USofA has been over-spending for several decades and the accumulating interest payments are finally catching up.
    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      When people lose jobs they move from paying taxes to collecting unemployment. In a somewhat oversimplified way, if you go from 5% unemployment to 10%, your outlays have increased not a 5% increase in government spending, much more than that, a couple of percent of GDP, and your revenue has fallen by 5%.

      Then you have extra spending, for things like bailouts, stimulus (some of which essentially comes out of the unemployment insurance you're paying) and so on.

      Oh, and all the while because companies are making

      • by sjames (1099)

        In the U.S. we could leave Iraq and Gitmo, and disband the TSA. All that killing brown people, gate rape and nudie scanning costs quite a lot for nearly zero return.

        Of course, actually addressing unemployment (other than for finance executives) might be helpful.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:45PM (#36487680)

      People are not paying taxes, that's actually the problem. The middle class is being eliminated, poor people have no money to pay tax with and the rich get tax exemption.

      Where do you think the money should come from?

  • NOAA is currently seeking submissions to a survey of how they are doing. If you like their stuff, as I do, please go to the survey [cfigroup.com] and give them an honest review.

  • Why is it we can fund NPR and the National Endowment for the Arts, and all kinds of fluffy things, but when it comes to cutting the budget all the demagogues can think of is cutting essential funding? Oh, wait, I forgot they don't have the best interests of the nation in mind.

    Never mind.

    • by rainmayun (842754)

      Let's see... $422M annually for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (a small portion of which funds NPR), $160M for NEA... how does that compare to the $1B annually for JPSS?

      By the way, it's worth noting that while NPR only gets 2% of their budget from CPB, $94M went to fund local radio stations. NPR estimates 100 local radio stations would stop broadcasting if they lost CPB money, and many of the rest would be substantially crippled. Are you ready for all your radio stations to be ClearChannel and CB

      • by CptNerd (455084)
        Well, last I checked, $422M + $160M is about half of the JPSS budget. Seems like one is just a wee bit more important than the other, and surely there are other redundancies and superfluous spending projects that can afford to be cut. Of course, that doesn't conform to the Narrative, and so we must continue to spend on everything, and more so, or else we'll never get out of debt.
  • It'll be the deficit hawks in climate change denying red states that are affected most by gaps in forecasting.

  • A good henchman, enter someone trying to get advanced
    weather satellites cancelled.

    Nice move...!

    -AI

  • That would be news to my friends in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa.
  • by grumling (94709) on Sunday June 19, 2011 @12:22AM (#36489094) Homepage

    Did anyone actually read the article? It was full of "what if" scenarios: If we don't get the funding... this COULD be an incredible loss. No one at NOAA would ever find a worthless waste of money like WEFAX over short wave that could be eliminated and no one would miss it, instead they go for the most popular, useful tool they have and threaten to kill that off if they don't get fully funded.

    Doesn't anyone realize that the first line of defense for a bureaucracy is to find the most important program and threaten to kill it if it doesn't get what it wants?

    Like every time someone mentions selling public land, the first thing some policy wonk at the Dept of Interior mentions is selling off Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. The government could make millions from selling off land around ski resorts that no one would miss, but it will never happen because the bureaucrats will always threaten the worst case scenario. NPR is all too happy to play along, since they have the same problem. I'm sure NPR could find 10% of their operating budget to cut and still provide 95% or more of their current offerings, but instead they go for the jugular and threaten to kill Garrison Keillor.

  • by darkpixel2k (623900) <aaron@heyaaron.com> on Sunday June 19, 2011 @12:57AM (#36489268) Homepage
    Here's a novel idea...start charging for access to the weather satellite data.

    I'd pay $1/mo for being able to access the weather forecast...and there are what? 300,000,000 Americans? That should be enough to keep the damn satellites up. If not, charge $2/mo.

If you aren't rich you should always look useful. -- Louis-Ferdinand Celine

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