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Main US Weather Satellite Fails As Hurricane Season Looms 235

Posted by timothy
from the ok-fellas-let's-just-stick-to-the-tornadoes dept.
First time accepted submitter Rebecka writes with bad news, quoting an IB Times report: "Just as the 2013 hurricane season is about to begin, one of the U.S.' main weather satellites failed this week. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, also known as GOES-13, reportedly ceased to operate as of Tuesday, making it impossible to predict weather patterns on the East Coast." A note at NOAA's page for the GOES family of satellites says "GOES-13 imaging and sounding operations suspended. Recovery efforts for GOES-13 continue and the spacecraft health and safety are nominal. GOES-14 is being activated." You can follow the progress on the agency's page of General Satellite Messages.
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Main US Weather Satellite Fails As Hurricane Season Looms

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  • by benjfowler (239527) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:36PM (#43804957)

    Unfortunately, because of Republican intransigence in Congress, they haven't been able to build and launch a new bird.

    Everyone will now be screaming blue murder because of the huge negative economic impact this is going to have. Reliable weather prediction is critical for many businesses, including the ones responsible for the food supply.

    I hope the wingnuts are happy.

    • by jaymz666 (34050) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:40PM (#43804999)

      we don't need it, god will look after us

    • by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:45PM (#43805053) Journal

      And how many satellites could have been built with the $535 MILLION that the Obama Administration gave to Solyndra?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:52PM (#43805167)

        Or the trillion-plus dollars they've spent on a war in Iraq for which absolutely none of the stated reasons turned out to be true.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The Iraq War Resolution, which Congress approved, included 22 reasons for invading Iraq (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationale_for_the_Iraq_War#Iraq_War_Resolution). Plenty of which were true (* on #2 which I suspect is your greatest contention, but note that it doesn't just cite existence of WMD but programs to develop such, which he clearly had)

          That's a pretty far cry from your [quote]absolutely none of the stated reasons turned out to be true[/quote]

          True: Iraq's noncompliance with the conditions o

      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:57PM (#43805849)

        And how many satellites could have been built with the $535 MILLION that the Obama Administration gave to Solyndra?

        I'm not sure, but you could have built at least 7000x as many satellites for the cost of the Iraq War. Bonus points for a lot fewer Americans killed.

        • by Lithdren (605362)

          Clearly the only answer to this problem is to declare hurricanes a terrorist organization, let the US Military take over the NOAA fully for national security reasons and launch enough weather satellites into orbit that their combined blockage of the sun counter-acts global warming, which is causing them to get steadily stronger as time goes by.

          This lets the Republicans continue to massivly overspend on the US Military for poinless reasons, and gives the Democrats a win as the War Against Global Warming, whi

        • by jader3rd (2222716)

          I'm not sure, but you could have built at least 7000x as many satellites for the cost of the Iraq War. Bonus points for a lot fewer Americans killed.

          Unless Saddam attacked the US and all of our weather satellites were helpless to stop him.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:46PM (#43805069)

      I actually work on one of the teams that is building the GOES-R satellite. Say what you will about funding and scheduling, but we have not been cancelled.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by acoustix (123925)

      Unfortunately, because of Republican intransigence in Congress, they haven't been able to build and launch a new bird..

      Bullshit. The Dems had a supermajority of Congress in 2009 and 2010 and also held the office of the President. Why didn't they act then? Oh, I guess that doesn't fit your narrow-minded "republicans are evil and stupid" mindset.

      • by t4ng* (1092951) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:09PM (#43805341)
        Actually, Democrats only kind of had a super majority for about 4 months starting at the end of 2009. But only if you count 2 independents and the blue dog Democrats as voting with them, which they don't. So instead, you had the Republicans using the filibuster more than any Congress in history. Oh, but wait, the only way they've been able to filibuster so often is because they just expressed their intent to filibuster without actually doing the time consuming work of a filibuster. That way they can quickly get on with the business of expressing intent to filibuster even more.
        • The only caveat is that Sen. Majority Leader Reid has had multiple opportunities to reform/repeal the filibuster and hasn't. Nor has he called the GOP's bluff and made them actually filibuster.

          If you let the bully continue to bully you, you are not innocent in the results.
      • I think that was his point. In the US Dems and Repubs are just two sides of the same coin. Doesn't matter which side it lands on, the US people are going to get screwed.

      • As I recall, supermajority be damned, they couldn't break a filibuster. And they didn't have a Senate supermajority, either, they were one short at 59. Are you creating some sort of meta-congressional supermajority of all members of both Houses to make your case look good? Cause if so, it's irrelevant to making the case that Democrats had a total lock on power in the 111th Congressional session, becaues they certainly didn't.
    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:21PM (#43805479)

      Unfortunately, because of Republican intransigence in Congress, they haven't been able to build and launch a new bird.

      Didn't read even TFS, I see.

      They've already activated the back-up satellite (GOES-14), which has been in orbit waiting for this for four years now (launched in 2009).

      • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:59PM (#43805871) Journal

        Yeah, it was "impossible to predict weather patterns on the US East Coast" for like 15 minutes until they took the backup satellite off standby.

        Whew, that was close! Those hurricanes come out of nowhere!

      • by Golddess (1361003)

        Didn't read even TFS, I see.

        To be fair, "making it impossible to predict weather patterns on the East Coast", to me at least, made it sound like GOES-14 was not nearly as ready to take over for GOES-13 as you are saying it is.

        • To be fair, "making it impossible to predict weather patterns on the East Coast", to me at least, made it sound like GOES-14 was not nearly as ready to take over for GOES-13 as you are saying it is.

          True enough. There's no doubt that TFS just screams "we're all gonna die, Die, DIE!"

          Which is, alas, all too common these days. Sensationalism FTW....

      • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @02:32PM (#43806203)
        We're actually going to be quite short [the-scientist.com] of weather sats in the next decade or so. That we had a backup this time is nice, but hardly indicative that everything is going well.
        • quite possibly.

          We certainly don't have any backups on-orbit if one of the operational GOES sats goes down, having just activated the last of the backups.

          Not even sure we have anything in the planning stages yet, much less under construction and/or scheduled to be launched.

          Which doesn't excuse a "we won't be able to forecast hurricanes because GOES-13 failed!!!" headline....

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Except that we have plenty of other birds giving us imagaes. just not high enough resolution to see if it's raining on the left side of a street.

      Hell there are ancient WEFAX birds still up there that make a pass every 4 hours.

  • in the USA weather moves west to east
    most times rain in denver or elsewhere in the midwest means rain in NYC 2-3 days later

    i also like to which western baseball games were rained out. back when Coors Field was snowed in and the Mets-Rockies games were postponed, NYC got the rain a few days later. same with the other cities west of us

    • by qvatch (576224)
      Excepting when it comes off the gulf, or from Canada. Or when it becomes suddenly severe. But yes, typically it does come from the west.
      • by 0racle (667029)
        or from the Atlantic. So it comes from the west, except all the times that it doesn't.
    • by jaymz666 (34050)

      Really, the hurricanes mentioned in the story move from west to east?

    • by brian1078 (230523) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:43PM (#43805029) Homepage

      in the USA weather moves west to east

      Generally, yes. But many tropical systems that affect the eastern US start their formation off the coast of Africa and move East to West.

      • Well, that's still West.
        Just really, really West.
        Like, go West young man, then swim, then keep going.
        That's how Columbus did it and if it was good enough for the Queen then it should be good enough for you.

    • Yep. This. I'm originally from Oklahoma, but living in Ohio. It seems like when all my friends from Oklahoma are complaining about the weather, I'll have that same weather the next day. This proved extremely true this winter, like 90% of the times it rained/snowed there, it'd rain/snow here a day later. It's proving less true though now in Spring though. The thing that really throws me off is here bands of rain seem to not quite move west to east. In Oklahoma though, it moves almost perfect west to east in

    • in the USA weather moves west to east

      Except when it doesn't and goes west off Africa and comes in from the southeast and slams across Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, South/North Carolina, Virgina, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, etc.. Or when it comes in from the North Atlantic from the northeast....

      • by cayenne8 (626475)

        Except when it doesn't and goes west off Africa and comes in from the southeast and slams across Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, South/North Carolina, Virgina, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, etc.. Or when it comes in from the North Atlantic from the northeast....

        Hello? Louisiana.....

        Did we just suddenly fall off the fuckin' hurricane map?!? WhooHoo...I certainly hope so!!! That way, I can get rid of that damned flood insurance, and not have to leave town a co

        • Did we just suddenly fall off the fuckin' hurricane map?!?

          Sorry, didn't realize you were still around after that last hurricane.

    • Your typical monster hurricane track starts off the west coast of Africa. It moves WEST in the tropics, then heads NORTH along the eastern US, often continuing some westward motion even well north of the tropics. It does eventually head east, but usually not until the damage is done. Think of it as a big C curve that is mostly over the Atlantic and/or Gulf of Mexico. If we're lucky, the left side of the C doesn't intersect land.

  • by qubezz (520511) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:47PM (#43805087)
    Try the source at http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2013/05/22/weather-satellite-fails/2351927/ [usatoday.com]

    Satellite logs are at http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/PS/SATS/messages.html [noaa.gov], it looks like the satellite failed to return imaging two days ago and is now being put into a storage mode.
    • by Solandri (704621)
      To be fair to the submitter and editor, I use an ad blocker and didn't know ibtimes.com had intrusive ads until your post. On second thought, I guess this is one of the things an editor should be checking, so I'll only excuse the submitter.
      • by cdrudge (68377)

        This is a "News for nerds" site. What self respecting nerd doesn't use an ad blockers of some sorts?

  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Thursday May 23, 2013 @12:51PM (#43805153) Homepage

    If the weather satellite fails, we can just get our weather from the Internet like everybody else [slashdot.org].

  • More Information (Score:5, Informative)

    by PineHall (206441) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:10PM (#43805345)
    The satellite blog [wisc.edu] at University of Wisconsin has more information including some images from GOES 14, now turned on.
  • A bit dramatic... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I feel like the article is a bit more doomsday than it should be. "impossible to predict weather patterns"? Hardly. Goes 14 is already active as of today according to the NOAA CLASS database and covers a good portion of the area GOES 13 covered even before they move it to a new spot. Also don't forget the polar orbiters (POES) satellites that will cover the same area several times a day with equally, or more in the case of Suomi NPP, advanced instruments. Plus the European satellites contribute to forecasts

  • Based on how poor the weather reports along the East Coast have been for the last few months, the satellite must have gone down much earlier.

    Case in point, the weather for New York on 5/20, after looking at several different sources the day before, all said the same thing: low 70s with partly cloudy skies. The result: cloud blocked skies and light rain.

    If you can't get the report right 12 hours before something happens, why should we listen to you for something a few days down the road?

  • the most accurate weather report comes from 1) look outside your window and 2) open the door.
  • by maddog42 (208510) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @02:28PM (#43806173)

    Most forecasting is done by meteorologists viewing the predicted conditions based on a numerical model that normally gets run every 12 hours. The model's forecast is usually pretty good out to 72 hours or so. What happens is that an experienced weather-guesser (ex-Navy, here) will look at the model's output (which lags realtime to some degree) and compare the prediction to the actual conditions for the timeframe in question. If the correlation is high, he/she will put more faith into the model's longer term predictions. If the model isn't tracking reality very well, the forecaster will rely on experience rather than the numerical prediction for the longer-range forecast.

    Sounder data from the available weather satellites is used to seed the modelling software as close to its run time as possible, to set up starting conditions for the observable areas. If that data is lacking, the previous model run data closest to the time of the new run is used. (GIGO applies...)

    The realtime data can also come from radiosondes, official observations stations, buoys, or what have you. Losing a bird doesn't mean the forecasting infrastructure will fall apart; it just means that imagery will come from a different source (= different angle, with attendant distortion), and some loss of realtime input for the model run.

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