Oct 26 2011

Weather satellite budget cuts a ‘disaster in the making’ – Obama official

'Hurricane Irene off the Carolinas' photo (c) 2011, born1945 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Jane Lubchenco, head of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, criticises GOP moves to cut funding for critical satellite

, US environment correspondent

America and Europe face a “disaster in the making” because of Congress budget cuts to a critical weather satellite, one of Barack Obama’s top science officials has warned.

The satellite crosses the Earth’s poles 14 times a day, monitoring the atmosphere, clouds, ice, vegetation, and oceans. It provides 90% of the information used by the National Weather Service, UK Met Office and other European agencies to predict severe storms up to seven days in advance.

But Republican budget-cutting measures would knock out that critical capacity by delaying the launch of the next generation of polar-orbiting satellites, said Jane Lubchenco, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (Noaa).

“It is a disaster in the making. It’s an expression of the dysfunction in our system,” said Lubchenco, who was speaking at a dinner on the sidelines of the Society of Environmental Journalists meeting in Miami.

It would cost three to five times more to rebuild the project after a gap than to keep the funds flowing. “It’s insanity,” Lubchenco said.

2011 has set new records for extreme weather events in the US and around the world, bringing hurricanes, heatwaves, floods, tornadoes, blizzards, droughts and wildfires. Ten of those events, including last August’s devastating Hurricane Irene, inflicted damages of at least $1bn.

Climate change is expected to produce more extreme weather events in the future, making accurate long-range weather forecasts even more essential.

Read the rest on The Guardian.

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