Budget slashes threaten NOAA weather systems

T he National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is facing millions of dollars in cuts to programs that track everything from everyday weather to periodic systems such as El Nino.

In its Commerce Justice State and the Judiciary appropriations bill the House cut $22 million from NOAA's Geostationary Satellite program which uses infrared imagery to track El Nino's effect on clouds and monitors ocean flow and temperatures. The House also cut millions of dollars from the National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite Program which monitors the temperatures on the surface of the sea and any type of storm that is directly related to El Nino.

Other budget cuts would affect NOAA's nine agencies including the National Hurricane Center the National Weather Service and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) which is spearheading much of the El Nino research.

"The current El Nino is a reminder that this country is very vulnerable to a wide variety of weather-related impacts " said Ronald McPherson director of the NCEP. "It is necessary...to invest in measures to mitigate that vulnerability to weather and climate variations."

In a statement released last week the Clinton administration urged that "funding be restored for conversion of the El Nino observing system to operational status."

The spending bill has passed the House and Senate and members will meet this week to iron out differences.

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