In a time when superstorms such as Sandy result in billions of dollars in damage, Congress needs to reverse its plans to cut $245 million in funding for the next generation of weather-data collecting satellites, Sen. Chuck Schumer said yesterday.
"Efforts in Congress to slash hundreds of millions for a new fleet of weather satellites may endanger weather forecasting efforts as early as 2016, which in turn could threaten lives and property as catastrophic storms become more frequent," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
In 2014, the United States suffered eight major weather and climate events, each causing more than $1 billion in damage, and devastation would have been even worse if meteorologists did not have the data obtained by the satellites operated by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Schumer observed.
Some of the weather satellites now in orbit "are already beyond their expected lifetime," said Accuweather.com senior vice president Mike Smith.
"We do not have spares in place and we're behind in building spares and [in] higher-resolution data collection," added Smith, who is a meteorologist.
Thanks to the data collected by the satellites, meteorologists were able to calculate that Hurricane Joaquin had only a 20 percent chance of hitting New York City and that Joaquin, in combination with other weather systems, was likely to cause severe flooding in the Carolinas: "We got that right," said Smith, noting that the forecasts predicting the devastating consequences of superstorm Sandy were also on target, saving lives and money.
"We at AccuWeather support what the senator is proposing, because without knowing what weather systems are doing all over the entire world, it is not possible to make accurate forecasts," Smith said. More than 80 percent of the data used in the forecasts is obtained by the satellites, Smith said.