Saturday, December 29, 2012

Will GOP Budget Cuts Mean Missing The Next Hurricane Sandy?

(Image credit: Getty Images North America via @daylife)
In their quest to slash and burn all kinds of government programs while seeking to retain tax cuts for the wealthy, Congressional Republicans may be setting the stage for a horrific loss of life if NOAA doesn't receive adequate funding to replace its aging weather satellite system - the system that allowed most recently predictions of where Hurricane Sandy would make landfall and the potential size of the storm surge.  As a Forbes article indicates, America may be looking at a time period when there will be no weather satellite coverage.  As a result, thousands of lives may be at risk due to a lack of adequate warning of approaching hurricanes and northeasters.  Do Congressional Republicans give a damn?  Apparently not based on their obstructionism and apparent desire to push the country over the "fiscal cliff."  They'd rather pander to and curry the favor of the rabid dogs of the GOP base.  Perhaps Scott Rigell's constituents in vulnerable Virginia Beach, Hampton and Newport News need to get on Rigell's ass and demand that their safety be put ahead of his partisan political games. Here are article highlights:

One of the government services that most of us take for granted is weather forecasting. It’s the satellite data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that meteorologists in the U.S. rely on for accurate atmospheric data to make weather predictions. In particular, predicting the path of extreme weather conditions like hurricanes absolutely depend on NOAA’s polar weather satellites.

For example, if it weren’t for NOAA satellites, weather forecasters likely would not have been able to predict that Hurricane Sandy’s “left hook” into the Eastern Seaboard, which enabled local governments to undertake emergency preparations for the storm.

Unfortunately, due to what Undersecretary of Commerce Jane Lubchenco called, “chronic management problems,” it appears increasingly likely that the U.S. will have to suffer a at least a year without satellites starting around 2017 as the old satellites reach the end of their life cycle and the new ones are launched. And right now there’s no other alternative for getting that data,. The government is scrambling to do what it can to minimize the amount of time between the death of the old satellites and the launch of the new, but right now it looks like there will be at least some small gap.  But if we hit the Fiscal Cliff, all bets might be off.

According to the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade association representing aerospace manufacturers, the spending cuts mandated if the U.S. hits the Fiscal Cliff would include an 8.2 percent cut to NOAA’s weather satellite program. The association estimates that this would cost the jobs of 1,000 people who “design, build and operate weather satellites that have no equivalent or redundant system in the public or private sector.”

Regarding the potential for a loss of weather data, Craig J. Craft, commissioner of emergency management for Nassau County told the New York Times in October that ”We cannot afford to lose any enhancement that allows us to accurately forecast any weather event coming our way.”

Scott Rigell personifies much of what is wrong with today's GOP: he's an extremist on both social issues and taxation and puts the interests of special interests ahead of average Americans. Of course, Rigell looks down right sane compared to Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli who will be the GOP nominee for Governor of Virginia.

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