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Earth Space The Almighty Buck Science

Weather Satellites Lose Funding 275

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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  • Re:Why not? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18, 2011 @06:18PM (#36487220)

    Because we're America, damnit! If it were an international thing, we wouldn't have the control that we demand. We would also want first dibs on the data and the ability to edit it - ain't gonna happen with an international satellite.

  • Re:Why not? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Richy_T ( 111409 ) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @06:25PM (#36487240) Homepage

    Nonsense. The reason it's being cut is there's less money around to pay for stuff and it's easier to cut spending on satellites than over-funded "think of the children" schools and other stuff that money is wasted on but is considered untouchable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18, 2011 @06:31PM (#36487276)

    Can ham radio enthusiasts also put satellites into polar orbit to replace the ones that fail?

  • 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 camperdave ( 969942 ) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @06:44PM (#36487348) Journal

    How many fighter bombers would have to be decommissioned to pay for them?

    Defence is one thing, being the number one spender, by far, on the military on earth is something else entirely.

    I'm guessing one*. F-18 Hornets cost $80 million per plane. The proposed NOAA budget cut is $57 million. There are 128 of these craft on order. So just buy 127 and NOAA can keep its budget levels intact.

    *You're not actually going to save much decommissioning them. But you can cut back on how many you buy year to year.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Saturday June 18, 2011 @06:55PM (#36487414) Journal

    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 were paying almost twice as much forty years ago than they do today.

    I would say that the National Weather Service is exactly the kind of thing that a 21st century government should be doing.

    And I'm a bit offended by the verbiage in the title of this story. The Weather Service did not "lose" funding as if they had it in their pants pocket and misplaced it, their funding was systematically and purposely cut by the members of a particular political party in power because the National Weather Service is a successful government agency and "successful" and "government" in the same sentence goes against that party's core ideology. They hate government, possibly because they are so bad at it.

    Now watch for Congress to try to privatize the Weather Service by selling off the polar satellites to big corporations who will then offer weather forecasting and data in four tiers: 1 timely information for themselves. 2 delayed accurate information for those that pay for it. 3 accurate information for the military, but only if the military pay about 200% more than the US government currently would pay to fully fund the whole program itself, and 4 delayed information for the rest of us, and only as accurate as they want it to be to best suit their agenda. (for example, if there were a heavily Democrat-leaning city on a gulf coast protected only by an out-of-date levee, they might want to wait a while before sending out the alert. After all, if there was a major flood and subsequent demographic upheaval in that place, scattering the concentration of Democratic voters as far as Idaho and Montana, it can only help the country, right?)

    Not many people are aware of just how far certain politicians currently in office and the people they work for are willing to go to push their ideology, and practically none of us overestimate their capacity for inflicting pain on the population.

  • by mean pun ( 717227 ) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @06:59PM (#36487432)

    This article is nothing more than a troll from NASA to scare people into thinking that if they don't get ALL their funding, people will die in blizzards and tornadoes.

    Or perhaps NASA is right to complain: people WILL die if they have to stop running those satellites?

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:05PM (#36487462)

    Don't forget that taxes are lower than they were during the Reagan Era. About 15% less for most, and an even more generous cut for the rich.

  • Re:Why not? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:14PM (#36487510)

    It's the Republican response to global climate change. If we close our eyes it'll all go away. No data, no worries.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:15PM (#36487514)

    to privatize the government.
    Something tells me free enterprise will determine if there is a market all the 'functions' the government is serving; from satellite programs to saving the snail darters...just sayin'

  • Re:Now (Score:3, Insightful)

    by coaxial ( 28297 ) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:28PM (#36487592) Homepage

    You do realize defunding the National Weather Service and turning to ostensibly private organizations such as AccuWeather (which unsurprisingly gets 90% of its data from the NWS, and thus essentially serves as nothing but a middle man) has been a long time goal of the Republican party.

    And heaven forbid someone actually examine the cost-benefit ratio of a government program to determine whether or not that it is actually effective.

    No. Of course not. Facts have no place in your worldview. It's just cheerleading.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:42PM (#36487658)

    Calculate the number of people dying from terrorist attacks, compare to number of people dying from natural disasters, compare the funding.

    Is it me or is there something off the mark?

  • 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?

  • Re:Why not? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by jmottram08 ( 1886654 ) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:57PM (#36487742)
    And Democrats dont think of children before they are born.
  • 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 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.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp