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“More Extreme Weather, Decreasing Capabilities”: Sequester Forces NOAA Satellite Cuts To Save Weather Jobs

There has been mounting concern over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s mandatory furloughs of National Weather Service employees amidst increasingly severe weather. As a result, NOAA has reportedly submitted a plan to Congress that would restore the jobs at the expense of its weather satellites.

This ‘pay one debt to incur another’ plan is the result of budget cuts mandated by sequestration, which severely threaten the agency’s ability to carry out its key mission by slashing $271 million from its 2013 budget, including a $50 million cut in its geostationary weather satellite program.

After the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma and Missouri and in preparation for what’s predicted to be an extremely active hurricane season, NOAA’s acting administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan announced last week that the agency was cancelling its mandatory furloughs, but provided no details on how it would be offset.

On Sunday evening, Politico reported that the agency has proposed draining the funds from the promising COSMIC-2 satellite program in order to save weather jobs on the ground.

A joint initiative with Taiwan, the COSMIC program began with the launch of six satellites in 2006. As the initial fleet nears the end of its life, COSMIC-2 would launch 12 new satellites into orbit with the capacity to collect and transmit an enormous amount of data that enhance weather forecasts and climate models. According to the program’s website, more than 2373 researchers from 71 countries are registered users of COSMIC data, which are freely available to users in all countries, and 90% of COSMIC soundings are available within three hours of collection.

Whereas most satellites point down toward Earth, COSMIC satellites are unique in that they look across the horizon and monitor radio signals from the dozens of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. Since so many soundings are collected continually around the globe — including atmospheric density, pressure, moisture and temperature data from space — COSMIC provides a three-dimensional picture of the diurnal cycle in all types of weather.

This is particularly helpful in collecting data above the oceans, polar regions, and other hard-to-sample areas. According to Nature, COSMIC team members hoped to launch the first six COSMIC-2 satellites in 2016 “to orbit a narrow section of the tropics, gathering data that would reduce uncertainty in measurements of hurricane intensities by 25%, and in those of hurricane tracks by 25–50%”.

As climate change increases the severity of extreme weather across the country, sequester was already jeopardizing NOAA’s ability to provide accurate and advance forecasting of extreme weather events by further delaying the launch of replacements for the agency’s aging geostationary satellites.

While NOAA has yet to make any statement on its plan to avoid furloughs, cutting the COSMIC-2 program to save forecasting jobs does not mean forecasting quality will stay the same — instead, sequester cuts just create more problems elsewhere by undermining the ability to predict and prepare for severe weather in the future.

As Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress explained, “This is not cutting spending to increase efficiency, it’s cutting spending that will decrease capabilities.”

 

By: Kiley Kroh, Think Progress, June 10, 2013

June 13, 2013 Posted by | Sequester | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A “Federal Family” Affair: Coordinated Efforts, Except At Fox News

FEMA chief Craig Fugate and National Weather Service director Jack Hayes recently wrote an op-ed about preparations for hurricane season. They noted the coordinated efforts of “the entire federal family, state, local and tribal governments, the faith-based and non-profit communities, and the private sector.”

This wouldn’t be especially interesting, except as reader J.M. noted via email, Republican media outlets are apparently worked up about the phrase “federal family.”

Here, for example, is a Fox News report that ran on Monday:

[B]efore Irene fizzled, the Obama White House wanted to make sure that Irene was no Katrina and that, in fact, the president and his aides would be seen in compassionate command of the situation.

Hence the introduction of what may be the most condescending euphemism for the national government in its long history of condescending euphemizing: “federal family.”

This new phrase was supposed to, [Fox News’ Power Play] supposes, make anxious East Coasters feel the love of a caring federal government — tender squeeze from the Department of Homeland Security, a gentle embrace from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The phrase was a centrally distributed talking point, appearing in op-eds, press releases and statements from across the administration.

No major hurricane had hit the U.S. mainland in the Obama era, and the “federal family” had obviously been saving up a lot of new approaches to differentiate itself from the clan under President George W. Bush.

National Review’s Andrew McCarthy was also troubled by the “federal family” phrase, as was Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s site, though both appeared to be working from the assumptions of the Fox News report.

There’s just one problem: Fox News’ report is completely wrong and based on lazy assumptions, which could have been avoided if it had taken 30 seconds to check.

Fox News said the “federal family” phrase was “introduced” by the Obama administration, adding that it’s a “new phrase” intended to draw a distinction between Obama’s team and Bush’s. What Fox News didn’t bother to find out is that the Bush administration also used the “federal family” phrase, many times, as did the Clinton administration, many times. It simply refers to a group of federal agencies that work together on emergency response.

It’s not “new”; it wasn’t “introduced” by the Obama administration; it’s not part of a “condescending” liberal scheme to make Americans love the government; it has nothing to do with embarrassing the Bush administration, since the Bush team used the same rhetoric. Fox News just didn’t bother to get its facts straight before misleading its audience.

There’s a good reason those who rely on Fox News seem so confused, so often — they’re routinely lied to.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 31, 2011

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Dictators, GOP, Government, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Media, Politics, President Obama, Press, Public, Public Opinion, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Divine Blessing”: The Wrong Way To Respond To A Storm

Hurricane Irene obviously has the attention of millions of Americans, but some are handling the threat better than others. On the right, some of the rhetorical responses haven’t cast conservatives in the best light.

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul wants to eliminate FEMA; congressional Republican leaders are reluctant to approve emergency disaster relief; and Fox News is running pieces like these, calling for the elimination of the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service.

As Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast, news stations bombard our televisions with constant updates from the National Hurricane Center.

While Americans ought to prepare for the coming storm, federal dollars need not subsidize their preparations. Although it might sound outrageous, the truth is that the National Hurricane Center and its parent agency, the National Weather Service, are relics from America’s past that have actually outlived their usefulness.

The Fox News piece touts private outlets, including AccuWeather, without alerting readers to a key detail: these private outlets rely on information they receive from the National Weather Service. Indeed, the NWS makes this information available to the private sector for free, since the NWS is a public agency and the data it compiles is public information.

The Fox News item goes on to say, in reference to the Weather Service, “It issues severe weather advisories and hijacks local radio and television stations to get the message out. It presumes that citizens do not pay attention to the weather and so it must force important, perhaps lifesaving, information upon them.”

This is not, by the way, a parody.

Glenn Beck, meanwhile, told his radio audience on Friday that Hurricane Irene “a blessing. It is God reminding you — as was the earthquake last week — it’s God reminding you you’re not in control. Things can happen.”

This divine “blessing” has already killed at least eight people.

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 28, 2011

August 28, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Climate Change, Conservatives, Disasters, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Media, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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