SCHUMER REVEALS: PROPOSED $369M CUT TO WEATHER SATELLITE PROGRAM COULD LEAD TO DANGEROUSLY DELAYED STORM WARNINGS IN NYC & LI
President Just Tweeted About Hurricane Preparedness But Schumer Says Slashing Funds To These Critical Satellites That Gather 85% Of U.S. Weather Data Could Do Big Harm To NYC & LI, Where Down-To-The-Block Forecasts Are Demanded; Big Storms Like Sandy Or Joaquin, Even Average Summer Thunderstorms Need Satellites To Deliver Accurate Forecasting
This Year’s Hurricane Season Predictors Put NY At More Risk Than Some Mid-Atlantic States; Senator Launches Push To Protect Fed Funds Needed To Upgrade, Repair & Replace Essential U.S. Extreme Weather Satellite System
Schumer: Once Again, We Must Put High Pressure on Congress Before These Essential Weather Satellites Become Space Junk
On the heels of a Presidential tweet touting hurricane preparedness and new warnings from forecasters on New York’s own chances for a hurricane this year, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called on the U.S. House of Representatives to reverse a proposed cut of $369 million dollars to the national weather forecasting system, which includes a fleet of satellites floating high above earth. Schumer said the cut could jeopardize weather forecasting and weather alerts, putting lives in danger and making it even harder for New York’s meteorologists to forecast and warn communities about upcoming severe weather. Schumer cited lessons of Hurricane Sandy and mobile alerts New Yorkers received this past week when strong thunderstorms and heavy rains touched down as he made the case to undo these damaging cuts.
“A stronger than normal hurricane season looks like it’s rolling on in, just as Congress tries to roll right over the critical federal funding that ensures the nation’s weather satellites deliver us the forecasting we need to not just plan our day—but to be prepared and stay alive,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “In cities like New York and across Long Island, down-to-the-block forecasting abilities can mean the difference between an evacuation or an ‘all-clear’ and that’s why it makes no sense to cut key federal resources that go towards upgrading, repairing and replacing our essential weather satellites. The information we gather on weather from high above the earth translates to safety on the ground and that’s why we must put high pressure on Congress before these essential weather satellites become wasted space junk. The House of Representatives should reverse course and restore these funds, which local meteorologists rely on for accurately predicting extreme weather patterns.”
Schumer explained that the House of Representatives has proposed cutting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Polar Follow-On (PFO) program by $369 million, compared to the Senate’s proposal; the PFO program includes a next-generation polar-orbiting satellite that will provide the National Weather Service the data it needs to accurately predict storm patterns and weather forecasts. Moreover, Schumer pointed to a brand new forecast report, released just this week that suggests a 62 percent chance of a major hurricane hitting the Atlantic Coast. Schumer said that in light of this new report, and recent storms across the state like the torrential downpours earlier this week in New York City, Congress should restore these cuts and make sure the national weather forecasting operation is sufficiently funded.
Schumer also cited a recent Newsday story that explained how forecasters now see a 71% probability of a hurricane striking the East Coast, which is now up from a 51% percent probability announced in April. The same story, which cited Colorado State University forecast experts also said the odds of the most dangerous storms, categories 3 through 5, increased 38% from 24% this April. Schumer said these new warnings should be alarm bells for Congress as they consider the consequences of cuts to the U.S. weather satellite system.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites provide the data the National Weather Service needs to make accurate forecasts, which allow emergency managers to make timely decisions to protect lives and property. The NOAA’s Polar Follow-On (PFO) is a next-generation polar-orbiting satellite that will be designed to help NOAA avoid a gap in forecast coverage, which could occur if the current polar-orbiting satellites malfunction or are lost. Schumer explained that adequate funding for the Polar Follow-On program is essential to ensuring that we do not face a gap in weather satellite data, which could significantly hinder the National Weather Service’s ability to accurately forecast severe storms. Schumer said that while the Senate’s proposed budget would provide $419 million for PFO, the House Bill only provides $50 million for the PFO–overall, a $369 million cut.
Polar-orbiting satellites continuously scan the planet from north to south, and instruments aboard these satellites provide data on atmospheric winds and moisture. This data is then fed into computer models that meteorologists use for making weather forecasts. The data from the polar-orbiting satellites is particularly useful for making medium-range predictions out to about seven days in advance. The U.S. has a fleet of weather satellites and two crucial polar-orbiting satellites. One satellite crosses the equator at 7:30am local time and the other at 1:40pm local time. Polar orbiting are critical for longer-term forecasting, and geostationary satellites are important for short-range warnings and forecasts.
Polar-orbiting satellites provide 85 percent of the data used to forecast the weather and are therefore extremely necessary because they are a vital component of Americans’ personal, property, and economic security. Furthermore, one-third of U.S. GDP is affected by climate and weather. For instance, climate and weather patterns affect air travelers trying to get home safely and on time, farmers trying to protect livestock and crops, and cities relying on energy from wind turbines and solar panels.
Schumer today said that Congress must maintain funding so that NOAA can continue their satellite program. Schumer said that any cuts to funding is concerning for a number of reasons. First, Schumer said that the lack of NOAA funding could put national security in jeopardy because we need weather satellites to help better protect the lives of individuals and civilian infrastructure in the event of a major storm. Second, Schumer said that proposed cuts to the satellite program could end up costing taxpayers more in the long run since municipalities would not be as prepared for severe storms and would be forced pay for damages from unforeseen strong storms and tornados. Lastly, Schumer said that because the-day-to-day operations of so many businesses, families, and farms, rely on efficient weather data, the economy could be impacted without swift action.