- Advocacy & Policy
- Research Center
Nowhere in America has the impact of severe weather been more harmful to communities and families than in Louisiana. One analysis conducted for Kiplinger.com found that property damage — largely from Hurricane Katrina — caused the state $32.2 billion in property losses from 2002 to 2011.
And in 2012, we are just weeks into a summer that has already spawned devastating storms, floods, wildfires and heat waves across the nation.
It's hard to imagine a less opportune time to cut funding for weather forecasting. Yet that is exactly what will happen unless Congress repeals mandatory budget cuts scheduled to hit federal programs 2013.
These "sequestration" cuts include a $182 million reduction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather satellite program — putting at risk the very weather satellites that provide life-saving severe weather warnings.
With this devastating cut, development of a new generation of weather satellites will be delayed, risking an increase of what is already projected to be at least a 17-month gap in critical polar-orbiting weather satellite coverage beginning in 2017. National Weather Service forecast models get 85 percent of their data from polar-orbiting NOAA weather satellites. Without this data, weather predictions may wildly miss the mark.
In one test last year, NOAA ran models forecasting the 2010 Snowmaggedon blizzard using 1960s-era sea buoys and weather balloons. Without satellite data, models misjudged the storm track by 200 to 300 miles and underestimated snowfall accumulations by 10 inches. Without satellites, NOAA says hurricane tracking would suffer from the same degree of inaccuracy — a thought incomprehensible to coastal communities, where the only defense is adequate time to prepare.
Given their ability to help protect lives and property, isn't weather satellite funding a good investment for the nation?
Many people think so, including former astronaut and NOAA Deputy Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, who recently warned Congress, "These programs require stable and sufficient budgets in order to minimize disruptions that may lead to launch delays and cost increases."
By keeping these programs on track, we can help minimize an estimated $46.5 billion in economic losses caused by severe weather in Louisiana and across the country each year.
We can't afford to let budget cuts take weather forecasting back to the Dark Ages. NOAA satellites save lives and money at a time when our weather is becoming more and more volatile. Congress and the president should avoid these penny-wise, pound-foolish budget cuts, and work to ensure that citizens and communities continue to receive the accurate weather forecasts they've come to count on.