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Readers rankled over NOAA satellites

NOAA storm imagery

NOAA satellite data provides essential information for tracking storms and forecasting weather. (NOAA image)

Readers were critical of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's management of two major weather satellite acquisitions following a Sept. 19 article.

One reader wrote: NOAA has clearly proven with this debacle that they should never have been permitted to manage a satellite program in the first place. All satellites should be under NASA's jurisdiction and the incompetent and redundant NOAA satellite program should be shut down.

And another commented: NOAA has a problem with priorities! Let's get the priests of global warming out of the organization and get back on track with the real important issues... like weather satellites!

Frank Konkel responds:

While NOAA received the lion's share of criticism at a Sept. 19 congressional hearing, don't forget that NASA already partners with NOAA on both the Joint Polar-orbiting Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-R) program. Combined, the lifecycle costs of both satellite programs are more than $22 billion, and they have experienced delays, cost overruns and ugly oversight reports. In the early- and mid-2000s, a joint NASA-NOAA-Defense Department satellite program wasted billions of dollars on similar types of satellite programs.

The general responsibilities now go like this: NOAA handles the procurement and NASA provides expertise when applicable. NASA launches the satellite and oversees its transition to a fully operational satellite, then NOAA takes over its operations.

These satellites aren't orbiting around the Earth doing nothing. They're making key measurements on weather phenomena of all kinds, providing data to help forecasters make predictions, including tracking dangerous storms and warning people in danger. Data from these satellites is infused into weather data models and forecasters from the National Weather Service – a component agency within NOAA, which in itself is a component of the Commerce Department – and the folks at NWS use the models to make the forecasts that affect every American.

"Shutting down" NOAA's satellite program would require an enormous transfer of information, personnel and logistics information to NASA that no doubt would come with a massive price tag. It might not even be safe, considering NOAA's historical hold on operating weather forecasts. While NOAA's faults are clear – they haven't exactly been transparent with lawmakers or the public on these matters – they provide a vital service to the country. If you value weather prediction or storm tracking, you have NOAA and its satellite programs to thank.

In addition, while NOAA does spend money on climate research, the presence of any "priests of global warming" at the agency is for the most part irrelevant to the debate over the weather satellites. Climate research has at times been a contentious issue in Congress, but the debate at hand has to do with the acquisition of two satellite programs, and has nothing to do with climate research that looks largely at information that's already been documented.

Posted by Frank Konkel on Sep 24, 2013 at 7:42 AM


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Reader comments

Thu, Sep 26, 2013

As a recent NWS retiree, I can confirm that there are indeed "Priests of Global Warming" throughout NOAA. These zealots consume resources that could instead be utilized to fund operational forecasting, or at the very least fund research into improving operational forecasting. Instead they get all the money for supercomputers to run their flawed climate models while the NWS is relegated to using lesser machines to run their more accurate forecasting models.

Wed, Sep 25, 2013 earth

Consider that satellites are the best way to map the terrain of the earth and therefore estimate the land that will be submerged by the melting of the glaciers and ice pack. With this, the very real problem of salt water infiltration into aquifers, building foundation liquefaction, ground erosion, and flooding like that seen in California with the last leap tide can have cost estimates developed. You can stick your head in the sand and spout derogatory false views (nominally Fox News) sound bites and catch phrases all you want but you had better learn to breath water as that sand WILL eventually be submerged. The costs to the people of the melting will have to be paid and it can either be ad hoc individual actions or a well-researched, planned and executed process. That is why we have a government “to promote the general welfare”. If you want to be anarchists, stop using the transportation system, fresh water piped into your house, sewage system and other “big government”, socialist infrastructures.

Wed, Sep 25, 2013

I disagree with your statement that "the presence of any "priests of global warming" at the agency is for the most part irrelevant to the debate over the weather satellites." The mission of NOAA is to provide reliable actual weather reports and predictions. The fact that they are spending any time, effort, and taxpayers money on this purely political, counter-productive debate aimed towards enriching themselves and empowering socialist agendas takes that much away from their real and productive mission which includes the acquisition of satellite programs. As a TAXPAYER I resent ANY funding to empower and enrich the big-government types at the expense of both the rest of this country as well as myself. And yes, since these "priests of global warming" do take away from the effort of these satellite programs, their activities are relevant to the conversation.

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