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Say Nothing About the Failing Satellite 193

Posted by kdawson
from the or-about-global-warming-either dept.
The QuikScat satellite used for predicting the intensity and path of hurricanes could fail at any time (it's already past its designed lifetime). Without this satellite, the accuracy of US forecasters' predictions could be degraded by up to 16% — and there are no plans for any replacement. Bill Proenza, director of the National Hurricane Center, has been outspokenly critical of his superiors on this situation, but he has been warned to stop commenting on it.
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Say Nothing About the Failing Satellite

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  • by dangitman (862676) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @02:48PM (#19534071)

    The QuikScat satellite used for predicting the intensity and path of hurricanes could fail at any time

    Wouldn't a satellite named "QuickScat" be properly used for improvising jazz lyrics?

    • or (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wouldn't a satellite named "QuickScat" be properly used for improvising jazz lyrics?
      or a Taco Bell commercial. Just saying.
    • What it means (Score:5, Informative)

      by the_mighty_$ (726261) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:10PM (#19534307)

      Scatterometer [wikipedia.org]:

      "A radar scatterometer is designed to determine the normalized radar cross section (sigma-0) of the surface. Scatterometers operate by transmitting a pulse of microwave energy towards the Earth's surface and measuring the reflected energy. A separate measurement of the noise-only power is made and subtracted from the signal+noise measurement to determine the backscatter signal power. Sigma-0 is computed from the signal power measurement using the distributed target radar equation.

      "The primary application of spaceborne scatterometry has been measurements near-surface winds over the ocean. By combining sigma-0 measurements from different azimuth angles, the near-surface wind vector over the ocean's surface can be determined using a geophysical model function (GMF) which relates wind and backscatter. Scatterometer wind measurements are partiularly useful for monitoring hurricanes. Scatterometer data is being applied to the study of tropical vegetation, soil moisture, polar ice, and global change."

      • by dangitman (862676)
        but it's not called the "QuickScatt," or the "QuickScatterometer." It's called the "QuickScat." The term "Scat" has long been used for a form of jazz lyrics, or alternative, things that are scatalogical in nature. Didn't they put any thought into the name?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by TapeCutter (624760)
          "The term "Scat" has long been used for a form of jazz lyrics..."

          And here I was thinking it was zoological term for turds.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by MrYotsuya (27522)
      The QuikScat satellite used for predicting the intensity and path of hurricanes could fail at any time

      Wouldn't a satellite named "QuickScat" be properly used for improvising jazz lyrics?


      You're close. It does both. That way the weather forecast is more entertaining. Who doesn't like it when a middle-aged white guy starts belting out "skeep-beep de bop-bop beep bop bo-dope skeetle-at-de-op-de-day! "
    • Sounds like they need a scatologist to get that thing fixed!
  • Says he can do it soon. Didn't leave his number :(
  • Is it any wonder? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @02:52PM (#19534113)
    Like many important things, this has taken a back seat to the needs of the Military Machine to support Iraq and well as their own technology projects for spying on Americans and the rest of the world.
    • by MrMr (219533) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:10PM (#19534301)
      Only a few more years and everybody in the US will also understand why all their new democratic friends in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait etc. consider the war in Iraq a win-win situation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Plutonite (999141)
        Would you care to elaborate?

        Egypt considers the war on an Arab despot a direct threat to it's own totalitarian regime, and in keeping with it's nationalist rhetoric the local media were all instructed to demonize anything American in this war, and support any force, terrorist or otherwise, against it. The US state department knows and understands this, as the Egyptians need this to heat up the people against a common enemy/"devil" or else lose power.

        Saudi is not happy because now they have to protect themse
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MrMr (219533)
          Ok, it was a cynical joke, but I'll elaborate:
          I agree that Egypt,Saudi and Kuwait would feel threatened if Iraq and Afghanistan had become democratic countries, the current mess is therefore their win-1. The ousting of Saddam Hussein improved their position in the Arab world, that is win-2.

          In other words:
          All three countries (and probably many more in the region) are, covertly or openly, very happy to see the neighbourhood bully Saddam Hussein killed, especially when done by a bunch of infidels.
          All three cou
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Plutonite (999141)
            My cynicism detector thresholds have now been adjusted. Thank you for your input. Please proceed to the nearest exit.
    • No, it's part of the new policy on global warming: if you can't detect it, it isn't there.

      And so funding was cut on climate monitoring satelites. Even though we need more monitoring on ocean temperatures and the like to refine computer models. I imagine this was just caught up in it, since ocean temperatures are sorta coorelated with strong hurricanes...

      No science is good science!
      • In my going for sarcasm in the last sentence, I didn't mean to imply that ocean temperatures are only slightly correlated with hurricanes. They are: warmer water gives you stronger hurricanes, because that's how they build up their energy.

        Now here's the interesting part: the warmer waters given to us by climate change so far haven't actually been also giving us stronger storms. Instead they've been giving us more frequent storms. And so hurricane season actually started several weeks early this year, wherea
        • And yet that was the seventeenth storm that we know of that happened before the start of hurricane season. The current hurricane cycle is the same cycle we've been observing since we've started recording these things. The effect of ocean warming, if there is an effect, on hurricane intensity/frequency is currently not great enough to be measured.
          • The current hurricane cycle is the same cycle we've been observing since we've started recording these things. The effect of ocean warming, if there is an effect, on hurricane intensity/frequency is currently not great enough to be measured.
            Why did you end your comment early?

            "is currently not great enough to be measured with the data set we have to measure it against"

            • We need more data (Score:2, Informative)

              by zahl2 (821572)
              Yeah, I figured this guy was going to force me to pull up cites, so here we go:

              http://www.gfdl.gov/~tk/glob_warm_hurr.html [gfdl.gov]
              A quick first search turned this one up, and it seems to list all the papers along with dissents.
              If you look at section #4, those are the papers I'm thinking of. Dissenters seem to say that our instrumentation isn't accurate(*) and that the data set isn't long enough. Too bad we won't actually put up more and better instrumentation.

              (*) There's six hurricane basins to look at. Some sateli
            • Yes, it is not great enough to be measured with the 400 years of hurricane history we have to look at. That's the point, these recent hurricane seasons are not out of the acceptable range of what we've seen before.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by whit3 (318913)
        Our public institutions, like the Hurricane Control Center, act in the public interest, and
        the claim of the reprimand "taking valuable time away from your public role" indicates,
        in my view, that Mary Glackin, who presumably wrote or approved the document, is
        corrupted and can no longer function as a useful civil servant. We, the people, need to
        find a better person to take over that position. Clearly, warning of failure to maintain the
        information gathering apparatus that supports hurricane warning is VERY
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That wasn't my immediate reaction. I assumed that allowing a hurricane weather satellite to fall out of orbit and not get replaced was the first step in a massive concerted public relations offensive coordinated by the American government and its press to suppress news and information about hurricanes. After all Katrina was a PR disaster and the satellite ruined a bunch of potentially good excuses and talking points for them. They couldn't say that the hurricane itself was unexpected. They had to pretend to
      • Re:Is it any wonder? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Chibi Merrow (226057) <mrmerrow AT monkeyinfinity DOT net> on Saturday June 16, 2007 @04:24PM (#19534937) Homepage Journal
        Satellites don't just appear out of thin air. They have to be designed and built and tested and put onto a launch schedule. With NASA's already anemic budget being mostly eaten up by the money pit of the ISS to keep the Russians afloat and NOAA having huge commitments all over the place (Do you know how many programs and areas of responsibility NOAA has? It's staggering.) I imagine Congress just thinks it's cheaper to pay the cost of evacuating more people over the next ten years than pay the large upfront cost for getting a new satellite out NOW. That's the same reason the levee system in New Orleans was never improved, funnily enough. Congress decided it wasn't worth billions of dollars to prepare for a "once in 200 years" event. If it'll only happen once in 200 years, then you can stretch out the monetary damages over that time period as well (in theory). Preparing for a category 5 storm just isn't worth the cost.

        The satellites had nothing to do with embarrassing anyone over Katrina. What's embarrassing is that my damn governor refused Federal help and let people die in their homes. Which (combined with the hugely incompetent recovery effort) is why she isn't running for re-election.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          What's embarrassing is that my damn governor refused Federal help and let people die in their homes. Which (combined with the hugely incompetent recovery effort) is why she isn't running for re-election.

          That's not what Heckofajob Brownie says. [foxnews.com]
        • Re:Is it any wonder? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:31PM (#19535471)
          Satellites don't just appear out of thin air. They have to be designed and built and tested and put onto a launch schedule.

          Thanks, Ron Obvious! :P

          With NASA's already anemic budget being mostly eaten up by the money pit of the ISS to keep the Russians afloat and NOAA having huge commitments all over the place (Do you know how many programs and areas of responsibility NOAA has? It's staggering.) I imagine Congress just thinks it's cheaper to pay the cost of evacuating more people over the next ten years than pay the large upfront cost for getting a new satellite out NOW. Congress decided it wasn't worth billions of dollars to prepare for a "once in 200 years" event. If it'll only happen once in 200 years, then you can stretch out the monetary damages over that time period as well (in theory). Preparing for a category 5 storm just isn't worth the cost.

          They used to feel the same way about terrorist attacks. Then 3000 people got killed, and we've more than doubled the defense budget since then, to $739 billion [slate.com] if you count the yearly emergency funding bills. The comparable figure in 2003 was $480 billion. [msn.com] Meanwhile Katrina killed 1000 people, about 1/3 as long ago. Somehow we didn't react to that one. For FY 2007, NASA's budget was $16.8 billion, and NOAA's was $3.6 billion.

          Even according to your own logic (which in principle, I agree with) this is ridiculous. We can afford to replace a weather satellite.
    • When Hurricane Katrina came along, the weather satellites provided everyone with an image of it, and I could see that this was the perfect storm, nothing was going to stand in it's way.
      Even with the warnings and pictures, I was not impressed with the general outlook on the part of the public.
      They really had no idea of what was to happen.
      Then when Katrina showed up on my doorstep, and the trees came crashing down, cutting off power, all I had left was a scanner, which I hooked up to a car battery. The scanne
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @02:56PM (#19534141) Homepage
    The current crowd in power really does seem to believe they can create their own reality. As Ron Suskind reported, [nytimes.com]

    "The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'''

    But, as Ronald Reagan said—quoting John Adams, consciously or unconsciously, without attribution—"facts are stubborn things."
    • full quote (Score:5, Insightful)

      by the_mighty_$ (726261) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:07PM (#19534269)

      The full John Adams quote (from "Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials"):

      Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

      The Founding Fathers wisdom FTW!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by poopdeville (841677)
        Unfortunately, our passions often dictate which facts enter into consideration as evidence. Judicious lying can take care of the rest.
      • by no-body (127863)
        Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

        Hogwash! What are facts nowadays?

        Information on most media is produced by a generation of journalists which learned early in their careers that they may be out of job quickly if they violate an unwritten "code of conduct".
        "Facts" are often not brought up for that reason and stay hidden. Actually, pseudo "facts" are created to hide the real one's,
  • by cbelle13013 (812401) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @02:59PM (#19534173)
    <tin foil hat on>

    This is all part of a ploy by the global warming alarmists to show how "crazy" hurricanes are behaving and how meteorologists can no longer predict their path with the accuracy they could in the past. To ensure another Katrina doesn't happy, the Imperial Federal Government will establish behavior guidelines to make sure the citizens are acting in a way that is friendly to our environment.

    Shortly after that, Freedom and Liberty are brought out back and shot.

    </tin foil hat off>

    Boy it's a lovely day outside.
    • by vtcodger (957785)
      ***To ensure another Katrina doesn't happy, the Imperial Federal Government will establish behavior guidelines to make sure the citizens are acting in a way that is friendly to our environment.***

      And, of course. behavior guidelines for citizens will be augmented by behavior guidelines for tropical storms and hurricanes. They will behave or they will be dealt with most harshly. America will not tolerate terrorist behavior by meteorological entities.

  • by the_mighty_$ (726261) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:03PM (#19534231)

    Can someone who knows about hurricane prediction please answer a quick question for me? I heard countless predictions on the media that global warming was going to cause the 2006 hurricane season to be catastrophically intense and large. Obviously it wasn't.

    Where were the media's predictions coming from? Did the hurricane forcasters in the scientific community screw up (i.e. were the scientists really predicting a large hurricane season)? Or did the media just present a one-sided view when really many hurricane forcasters were not predicting anything unusual?

    Because if the hurricane forcasting is so off as to generate such predictions as we were heard about 2006, then a decrease in accuracy of 16% probably isn't that serious, is it (they're so far off anyways)?

    I'm writing as a layman here.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      there was an unexpectedly intense El Nino, which disrupted the 2006 season.

      its not there this year, so there is nothing to stop the 2007 being as bad as predicted.
      • by Xabraxas (654195)
        This is exactly what happened. In fact as soon as they realized this predictions changed. It's amazing how many people don't know that.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Kremit (632241)
        Correct; to see this, take a look at the current sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly map, which shows the departure from normal temperatures (I think it's the average of 10 or so years from satellite data):
        http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data/anomnig ht.6.14.2007.gif [noaa.gov]

        Notice the cool (blue anomaly) waters off of the coast of Peru. The water was warmer than normal last year (El Nino) and has now switched to a weak La Nina, which is supposedly favorable for Atlantic hurricane formation. However, current
    • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:26PM (#19534441)

      if the hurricane forcasting is so off as to generate such predictions as we were heard about 2006, then a decrease in accuracy of 16% probably isn't that serious, is it (they're so far off anyways)?

      AFAICT, that this satellite helps to predict the behavior and path of an individual active hurricane, which would be useful for deciding where and when to post warnings and evacuation orders. That task would have almost nothing in common with forecasting the statistical nature of an overall hurricane season.

    • by SNR monkey (1021747) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:32PM (#19534491)
      A few things here:

      Firstly, I believe that when it is referring to hurricane forecasts, it is actually referring to hurricane tracking, not predicting the number of hurricanes in the upcoming season. A 16% decrease in the accuracy of hurricane forecasting therefore would result in meteorologists being less sure of the path that a hurricane would take. It's possible it's also referring to the prediction of a storm system being elevated to 'hurricane' status after forming a tropical storm/depression.

      Even assuming I am completely wrong (that wouldn't be surprising) and the satellite will be use to help predict hurricane seasons, hopefully the replacement satellite will offer forecasters some new information to help in the future (Not every year's predictions are as off as the 2006 predictions, but if they were, I'd agree with you, a accurcy decreasing by 16% really won't make much of a difference.)

      Secondly, while the 2006 hurricane season was grossly overstated [noaa.gov] and scientists really were predicting a record number of hurricanes, you can blame the media for creating a frenzy regarding the results. In any other year, the prediction might have gotten a mention on page 20 of a newspaper, or the science section of CNN.com, but after hurricane Katrina, media outlets jumped at the opportunity for more scaremongering. So I'd say, both are to blame.

      One of the important things to realize is that he's not saying the acgency is necessarily underfunded, but that it has the money to easily replace the satellite but it is being used for PR instead.
      It looks like they're predicting a record [noaa.gov] number of storms this year too..
      • Secondly, while the 2006 hurricane season was grossly overstated and scientists really were predicting a record number of hurricanes, you can blame the media for creating a frenzy regarding the results. In any other year, the prediction might have gotten a mention on page 20 of a newspaper, or the science section of CNN.com, but after hurricane Katrina, media outlets jumped at the opportunity for more scaremongering. So I'd say, both are to blame.

        No, The Press is not responsible for bad predictions on the

        • In addition, I have read predictions every year since 2001 sometime in the late spring, that this years hurricane season would have an unusually large number of storms and hurricanes. Of those years, only in the year 2005 was it true. The only year I saw the press mention the previous years prediction was in 2006.
      • by GOES_user (852842) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:06PM (#19535285)
        QuikSCAT is for profiling a storm, which does improve the forecast. Every mile of coastline that has to be evacuated costs us around $1,000,000 (maybe more these days), and a 16% decrease in track forecast accuracy has a real monetary impact.

        Predicting the number of storms in a season is tricky business. Last year El Nino fired up, which created a situation that suppressed hurricanes. Otherwise the conditions were very good for hurricane development. That hasn't really changed, so this year could see many storms since the El Nino has weakened. But it is possible it will just be an average year.

        NOAA's and NASA's earth observing satellite fleets are aging, and replacements are either not in the queue or 8+ years away. Our radar satellites like QuikSCAT and microwave-sensing satellites, both of which are critical for tropical weather monitoring, are past their useful lifetimes with no replacements on deck. This is a problem. One could argue that the problem is funding, and to some degree it is, but another part of the problem is management and a lack of useful oversight by Congress. We are going to lose some of our weather and climate monitoring abilities because we launched a number of research satellites that we came to rely on and then did not make any plans to replace them.
    • by confused one (671304) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:41PM (#19534579)

      The predictions were based on the computer models. In hindsight, they went back and analyzed the atmospheric data and found that there was a lot of dust in the atmosphere, being carried by the prevailing winds. The dust was coming from the sahara. It appears that the dust had the affect of reducing storm intensity. That's the kind of thing that's hard to account for in a model. Especially when it the variables can change significantly from year to year.

      • by Dun Malg (230075)

        The predictions were based on the computer models. In hindsight, they went back and analyzed the atmospheric data and found that there was a lot of dust in the atmosphere, being carried by the prevailing winds. The dust was coming from the sahara. It appears that the dust had the affect of reducing storm intensity. That's the kind of thing that's hard to account for in a model. Especially when it the variables can change significantly from year to year.

        Wait... others here say it was El Nino that kept the hurricanes away. Which is it then? Both? If so, why have I never seen anyone mention both in the same explanation?

        • by hobbesmaster (592205) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @08:23PM (#19536555)
          The problem with an observational science like geology, astronomy or meteorology is that you have to take what nature gives you. You can't set up a controlled experiment that (fully) tests the real world conditions. When an event occurs you have to take all the measurements you possibly can. Then you sit back go to your (super)computer and your models and try and figure out what happened. Two different groups can approach the same situation from different angles, and can both independently come to different, reasonable, conclusions. In an experimental science like chemistry or particle physics, you'd perform another experiment controlling something thats different in the two models, look at this one's results, and then see how the two hypotheses hold up. You can't do this in an observational science. If we ever get exactly the same situation again, excepting either the dust in the atmosphere or el nino then you could make possibly come to some more concrete conclusions.

          In short: this is how science works. Multiple hypotheses for the same event simply mean that we don't have a full understanding of what happened. You need more data, which in an experimental science means more experiments. In an observational science that means sitting back and hoping that mother nature will give you something that will validate/invalidate your hypothesis.
      • by kmac06 (608921)
        Yep. Don't ask a global warming alarmist though, they'll tell you all the science is settled and the models can't be wrong.
    • I heard countless predictions on the media that global warming was going to cause the 2006 hurricane season to be catastrophically intense and large. Obviously it wasn't.

      I don't know a hell of a lot about hurricane prediction, but I did hear one expert say that el-nino had a moderating influence on the 2006 hurricane season, and el-nino is wearing off for 2007.

      As far as the media is concerned, I wouldn't trust them a lick to report anything regarding science. Global warming has an effect on the long term o
    • The Science Friday radio show had a hurricane center prediction rep on the show, and he basically owned up to it. He did say that 15 out of 16 of the annual predictions turned out to underpredict the hurricanes. It turned out that they missed the El Nino, which has the effect of chopping off the upper part of the hurricane storm, weakening them and reducing their likelihood of formation.

      I don't watch the news channels but every time a weather scientist, geologist, biologist or glaciologist is on Science F
    • I am a meteorologist. I primarily forecast synoptic scale weather, but I know a reasonable amount about tropical weather.

      It is my opinion, lots of people have played fast and loose, blaming a multitude of things on global warming. GW has become as much a political statement as a scientific one... in fact, it's probably more political right now. If it were pure science you'd have heard more about the positive points of the global warming scenario - whatever they are.

      The best info I have seen shows hig

  • "You're doing a heckuva job, Griffy!"

    Just before the next hurricane wipes out Miami, probably.

    Rob
    • by arivanov (12034)
      Houston seems like a better option. And the only one to shake some sense into the current White House crowd. There is no better reality check than seeing your own home levelled to ground. Pity for all the collateral damage though.
  • "Dear Mr. Proenza,

    How dare you point out the fact that the Emperor has no clothes!

    Now, instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars on PR, we're going to have to actually keep our mission-critical technology going?

    You sir, do NOT know how to properly game the system, and if that isn't bad enough, you're trying to stop us from doing it too?

    You shall be punished.

    Signed,
    Your Boss."
    • "Dear US Attorney,
      How dare you point out the fact that the Emperor has no case! You sir, do NOT know how to properly game the system, and if that isn't bad enough, you're trying to stop us from doing it too? You shall be punished.
      Signed,
      Alberto Gonzales


      Funny how little simular those situations look. By funny, I mean sad.
    • by Torvaun (1040898)
      We have a satellite in space that is past its life expectancy. It still works. How far past life expectancy have other satellites produced by the same company gone? If they're averaging out to double the estimate given at launch, then maybe this isn't really a big issue. Say you buy a television, and you get the extended warranty too, stretches things out to 5 years. The company is saying that the lifetime expectancy of the TV is 5 years, or not much past it. If you have any stuff in your house that's
      • by grumling (94709)
        The problem is that satellites have a limited amount of fuel on board. They got lucky and didn't have to move it as much as the designers thought, so they are on borrowed time. The fact is, most satellites fail due to loss of fuel, not due to dead electronics.

        Also, it is REQUIRED by international law that you have enough fuel onboard to de-orbit your satellite before you run out (basically to clean up after yourself). If they are on borrowed time, it may be that they are betting they can get it out of orbit
  • Needed Expense? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by charlieo88 (658362) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:05PM (#19534241)
    Cause really, what are the chances that a hurricane would destroy a major metropolitan area? Oh wait...
  • Integrity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lazarian (906722) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:06PM (#19534251)
    It's great to know that there's at least a few people with a sense of integrity and responsibility walking the halls of government agencies. People like Bill Proenza.

    He'll be fired within a year.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:16PM (#19534367) Homepage Journal
    Sometimes you have to choose between being right and having a job.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Puls4r (724907)
      You are more right then you know. What usually is true is cases like this is that the people splitting the money are so far removed from the people who need it that they don't know what is going on. Yes, there's an ad-campaign going on, but that's a different budget, through a difference approval chain, etc etc.

      I deal with finance people on a daily basis and it's a nightmare. The last things on their mind is allowing is allowing the money to be used for useful purposes. Indeed, the system is set up t
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It just may be experiencing a temporary deorbiting maneuver.
  • Are they even this accurate now?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BossTree (737694)
      The issue is the accuracy of the prediction of the hurricane path, not whether, when, or how the hurricanes form. And it's 16% less accurate as applied to the 2 day path estimation, which I believe is in the ~10% range on average. (Yes, I pay attention to this stuff being a resident of Southern Louisana for the past 5 years). Don't kid yourself: a significant increase like this in the 2 day path estimate has REAL impact on REAL people: 2 days is essentially the absolute minimum required to evacuate an area
  • Tasmin Archer would have plenty to say about it...
  • by brennz (715237) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @04:55PM (#19535195)
    I work at NOAA, in the satellite group National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/ [noaa.gov]

    The US government regularly under-funds satellites & space systems. You can see this with the huge cost overruns on NPOESS http://www.space.com/spacenews/archive05/NPOESS_11 2105.html [space.com] Why did NPOESS cost overruns happen? "Hey, lets do a contract on some incredibly experimental sensors involving high risk research and make sure they are on a fixed budget". Not smart.

    I am off on a tangent though - Quickscat is a different story. Quickscat was a NASA R&D bird . See http://winds.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/quikscat/index. cfm [nasa.gov] I'm not clear whether it was initially launched as NASA only and handed off to us, or if they "owned" the satellite while we did the ground systems for it.

    NASA does R&D type of satellites - proof of concepts, risk reduction, etc. We in NESDIS-NOAA often take over running them, or we run their sensors on our satellites. Well, these proof of concept satellites were never intended to be part of a series providing a continual new functionality.

    NESDIS/NOAA has two major satellite series that will always (in the future) have spares for:
    GOES series http://osd.goes.noaa.gov/ [noaa.gov]
    POES series http://www.oso.noaa.gov/poes/ [noaa.gov] (although the newest will be NPOESS via a joint program with DoD replacing our POES and DoD's DMSP)

    There is another satellite that is likely to fall soon too - Windsat/Coriolis http://www.ipo.noaa.gov/Projects/windsat.html [noaa.gov] While Windsat is technically a Navy satellite, we run that one too, and it has no replacement either. Fortunately, Windsat is more about Navy stuff than it is about Hurricane tracking...

    Bill Proenza, as a consumer of NESDIS' satellite data, sees NOAA efforts on the publicity side as being detrimental to the funding of the NOAA-NWS-National Hurricane center funding. Well, for the sake of accuracy, a few million dollars isn't going to fix our funding shortfalls...

    Until Congress starts funding new satellite development properly (not like NPOESS) this problem won't go away.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2007 @06:22PM (#19535787)
      "Quickscat is a different story. Quickscat was a NASA R&D bird . See http://winds.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/quikscat/index [nasa.gov]. cfm I'm not clear whether it was initially launched as NASA only and handed off to us, or if they "owned" the satellite while we did the ground systems for it."

      As one of those toilers at JPL who worked on QuikSCAT: The instrument is a copy of one that was being built for a Japanese satellite. It was built in 13 months (hence the Quik) from spares from the one already in process, modified to fit on a commercially available satellite bus (Ball BCP2000) and launched on a surplus obsolete TitanII the AirForce had sitting around. The rush (normal spacecraft development is a 4-5 year process) was because the existing instrument, NSCAT, was on a satellite that failed after 6 months, leaving a big hole in the data, so QuikSCAT would fill in until the Japanese satellite launched and came on line (it launched late, and later failed)

      The instrument was designed as part of an effort to collect 10 years or more of continuous data as part of an overall "understand the interactions of air and sea" program. So JPL developed a ground data system oriented towards that need (hosted at PODAAC). As it happens, we also had a real time feed of the data to NOAA (think of a "tee" early in the data pipeline), which, it turns out, has been very useful in the forecast business (back in 1999 and earlier, when this was all being done, people weren't sure it would be useful.. certainly not to the point of kicking in large sums of money to that end..). It took several years for the forecast community to start heavily using QS data (they were justifiably nervous about depending on an experimental satellite that was never intended to run this long...)

      QS is actually operated by LASP in Colorado.
    • On the other hand, WindSat gives a LOT more detail so this looks like the future direction for wind speed and direction. It seems to me part of the difficulty is combining a cost control culture at NASA procurment with a mission specs driven culture at Air Force procurment. This has led to slowing of the deployment of joint civilian-military meteorological assets. What you need is a lead agency for procurment which is also on the hook for cost overruns. If other agencies hitch a ride, that is a cost red
  • No point. (Score:5, Funny)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:01PM (#19535235)
    There's no point in putting up a replacement for the failing satellite...after all, the Rapture will be here soon enough, and whoever's left deserves to be surprised by the weather.

    </snark>
  • Interesting how our government is worried about scientific satellites going well past their "designed lifetime,..." Isn't there another project [nasa.gov] that went (and is still going) well past it's designed lifetime. Maybe they ought to let the Mars Rover team design the next hurricane satellite?
  • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:46PM (#19535575)
    There must not have been a contractor willing to line pockets thick enough to get this job done.

    Seriously, this administration is letting everything essential rot on the vine while they push war, war, war.

    BushCo just does not understand that when the decision is made to "go", it will be years before another satellite can be put in place. They are compromising safety, lives, and disaster response.

    It's sad. Very sad.
  • by golodh (893453) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @07:08PM (#19536113)
    Really ... hurricanes claim billions of dollars in damage annually and hundreds of lives (see http://marine.usgs.gov/fact-sheets/nat_disasters [usgs.gov]}.

    Now the real problem is ... you can't really address the problem by shooting at something. So that makes it a downright un-American issue.

    Now here's what to do about it.

    First of all the NOAA has to be brought under the Department of Home Security because that's where the money is nowadays. Secondly, submit a {sizeable} donation to to e.g. the Cato institute or an equivalent, and have them bring together a posse of "intelligence experts", who go on record as being "worried" that hurricanes may be caused by Al-Quaeda, or that Al-Quaeda is somehow taking advantage of them. PR campaigns in the media are optional, but be sure to work the lobby circuit.

    Then introduce the number of tracked hurricanes as a DOH success metric. That's important because it's a measurable and *achievable* goal.

    Now you've created a win-win situation! The DOH gets a clearly visible and achievable success metric [they haven't got all that many of those], and the NOAA gets the funding to track hurricanes in every part of the globe. Problem solved.

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @07:10PM (#19536121)
    Which of course means delaying action by many decades on ESSENTIAL critical infrastructure items:

    1. 50 years of discussion of the insolvency of Social Security from an actuarial point were and are valid.

    2. 50 years of illegal migrants after the bracero program in California, and it & border security is still not solved

    3. 35 years of oil supply crisis issues, and still there is not a single interim or long term program from congress

    4. 20 years of pulling down the military in various ways has to be looked at from the perspective of the bad guys who change and hide and subvert and move from country to country: The U.S. must remain vigilant and up to date in peace time.

    5. The constitution basically said the Federal Government should protect borders, commerce and currency and leave other issue to the states, and Congress is arguably not doing so good on a lot of these accounts (Mexico, foreign spying, China for a start resp.).
  • Me and others have used QuikScat data many, many times over the years. It's been one of the most invaluable satellites for earth science research, both meteorology and oceanography. Knowing the surface winds is probably the best knowledge you can have about the oceans below. Losing this satellite would be a shame and a major blow to future work.
  • by PPH (736903) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @09:39PM (#19537039)
    We've got our hands full with the ISS.

    -NASA

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @09:23AM (#19540363) Journal
    "In recent interviews with The Miami Herald and other media, Proenza has strongly criticized leaders of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for spending millions of dollars on a public-relations campaign while hurricane forecasters deal with budget shortfalls."

    I understand that Bush-bashing rates +1, cool! rating on Slashdot, let's back up a little.
    While I realize it's easier just to assume there is a "darkly-hooded cabal of evil men"(tm) running our government, let's - for a moment - suppose that they are men and women just like you or me, basically rational, basically GOOD people trying to do the best that they can.

    Rewind to Katrina: there were PLENTY of warnings, there was an extraordinarily good degree of accuracy in the predictions, and what happened? People blew it off. The human tragedy - no matter what you have to say about Ray Nagin, the city of New Orleans, the governor, etc - was that PEOPLE didn't get out of the hurricane's way *despite* being warned. And what is that? PUBLIC RELATIONS. Clearly, the agency believes, it has a credibility problem (I'd say it's a human-stupidity problem, but that's just me). So THAT'S their priority.

    In a land of shortening budgets (and, for the Constitutionally-impaired out there, it's CONGRESS that sets budgets, not the President) everyone has preferences - this guy wants the new satellite, I'm sure other administrators want more staff, others want more ground observation, and all have very good reasons. BUT NOT EVERYONE CAN GET WHAT THEY WANT. And while I very much abhor much of the Republicans' spending priorities in the last 8 years, I don't see the Democrats RACING to correct them, aside from earmarks for their own districts, ie. business as usual.

    So this guy, probably with the best of motives, decides he's not got enough traction internally, and takes his story to the sympathetic press who are slavering for any story that shows the "evil cabal at the top is clearly incompetent".

    Yeah, I'd reprimand him too.

    OK, just go back to your anti-Bush circle jerk, it's probably more fun than thinking.

"The medium is the message." -- Marshall McLuhan

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