Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday called on Congress to increase the budget of a satellite program that helps meteorologists make weather forecasts, saying accurate prediction tools are needed to save lives before and during storms.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Congress should provide about $90 million more for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Polar Follow-On Program, which aims to launch more polar-orbiting satellites that measure conditions of the atmosphere, oceans and land.
He said he supports the $419 million included in a proposed Senate appropriations bill, an increase over the $329 million approved for the current fiscal year.
Schumer said the current House bill, which provides just $50 million, is inadequate.
“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,” Schumer said.
Members of Congress are expected to discuss a spending bill when they return from recess in early September.
The Polar Follow-On Program will provide polar-orbiting satellites that are expected to improve the accuracy of weather predictions about seven days ahead.
These satellites will replace current ones that circle the globe about 14 times a day and provide the National Weather Service with data, such as atmospheric winds and moisture, needed for weather-predicting computer models.
Schumer said accurate weather forecasting tools are especially important for the East Coast.
The East Coast has a 71 percent chance of a hurricane striking from August to October, according to a report released last week by Colorado State University.
The Polar Follow-On Program is funded through an appropriations bill that also funds other scientific agencies, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the U.S. Commerce and Justice departments.
“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,” Schumer said.