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Going Off the Fiscal Cliff Could Mean Missing the Next Hurricane Sandy 296

Lasrick writes "Alex Knapp has an excellent article pointing out that NOAA satellites enabled NOAA to predict the 'left hook' of Hurricane Sandy into the Eastern Seaboard, which in turn enabled local governments to prepare. Those satellites are at risk and there will be a gap of about a year between 2017 and 2018, when the old ones fail and the new ones are scheduled to launch. There's no alternative to getting that data, and the so-called 'fiscal cliff' will drive an 8% cut to NOAA's satellite program, so that those replacement satellites may go up even later than 2018."
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Going Off the Fiscal Cliff Could Mean Missing the Next Hurricane Sandy

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  • by colin_faber ( 1083673 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:39PM (#42421003)

    These are cuts in the rate of spending increases! Not budget cuts as we all know them.

    This is such bullshit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:46PM (#42421045)

    I'm sorry, I must have missed the DNC budget passed in the Senate that included NOAA funding increases. Whats that? The truth is no budget has even been proposed by the Senate controled by the DNC in the last 5 years? None of Obama's proposed budgets have received a SINGLE vote from the DNC or the GOP? As I recall the GOP controlled House is the ONLY part of government that has proposed and passed a budget, but none of them have been brought up for a vote in the Senate. Perhaps you could enlighten us on how the GOP defunds NOAA when they haven't actually done anything.

    It must suck to have to make crap up to make your point.

  • by Shinobi ( 19308 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:51PM (#42421079)

    The only reason NOAA even managed to predict the left-hook was because they integrate the so-called Euro Model predictions from the ECMWF. The Euro model predicted the left hook, while GFS, which is the NOAA's model, predicted Sandy to go NNE.

    So for example, on Sailing Anarchy, there were people who were preparing for the Sandy left hook days before NOAA started warning about it, thanks to DryArmor reading the euro model data before NOAA did.

    The Big Gray Ships headed out from Norfolk over a day before NOAA warned about the left hook too.

  • by Walter White ( 1573805 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:53PM (#42421097)

    These are cuts in the rate of spending increases! Not budget cuts as we all know them.

    This is such bullshit.

    Budgets for the last two years are 5.5 billion and for 2013, 5.1 billion. I presume this is before sequestration.

    Where's the spending increase?

    Where's the bullshit?

  • Multiple instruments (Score:5, Informative)

    by dutchwhizzman ( 817898 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @03:00PM (#42421135)

    Disclaimer: I worked on a sat program for a met office.

    Weather forecasts are usually made by combining many sources of data from literally thousands of instruments. Ground sensors, weather balloons, satellites and such all contribute. If the current weather forecasting models depend on a certain type of information from certain satellites, it will take years to re-calibrate them to data from other satellites that are constructed differently. It may be that some types of data from CriS under certain circumstances are more accurate, but that doesn't mean that it will be compatible or adaptable to the current software being used to make the forecasts.

    The second problem is that there is only one CriS that orbits the planet in 14 parts, only coming back to a location about once a day. The NOAA satellites are geostationary and there are two. Together, they can do 24/7 covering of the USA. For weather forecasts, especially for short term hurricane directions that matter for evacuation alerts and such, you can't have just once in 24 hour coverage, you want 15 minute updates.

    CriS is certainly a nice instrument, but it's totally inadequate to replace the geostationary satellites NOAA has, since it's function and trajectory are totally not suitable for what the NOAA birds are for.

  • by carnaby_fudge ( 2789633 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @03:19PM (#42421245)
    Where do you get your numbers? Without references that can be checked your supposed budget numbers mean nothing.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @03:37PM (#42421343) Homepage Journal

    If you read TFA, you'd know the big concern isn't that the satellites are going to stop working, but that the expertise needed to design, build and operate the replacement satellites will retire or move on. This is a real concern.

    People who've never run an engineering project think you can take a project that is budgeted to cost X dollars, put it on hold when you've spent 0.7X dollars for some arbitrary length of time, then pick it up much later and finish it for 0.3X dollars. It doesn't work that way. Every time you restart a project it's can be logistically like starting from scratch -- sometimes even worse. I've had customers who take deliverables and sit on them from months. Since I can't keep my team sitting on its hands for months I put the team on something else. Then suddenly the customer signs off on the deliverables and wants work on the next phase to start right away. The team has to refamiliarize itself with the project and figure out what they were up to and why -- if the team is still intact.

    Delay is a potent driver of cost overruns and a major source of quality problems.

    In any case, this kind of reason drives me nuts. Yes, a solid, conservative piece of engineering often exceeds its design specs. In fact, it's surprising if it doesn't. So you can expect a satellite with a ten year planned lifetime not to conk out at ten years and a day unless you are very unlucky, *but you don't factor that into your planning* otherwise design specs mean nothing. The "happy accident" of a system outperforming its specification is no accident, it's the product of respecting the boundaries of what can be guaranteed.

  • Re:North Korea (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2012 @03:51PM (#42421417)

    Watching what live on TV? If there were an actual governmental overthrow (outside of your fevered dreams, that is), I doubt you'd be laughing, or watching television.

    This might be shocking news to you but the world is larger then your US america.
    And there are actually people there too.

    I'm reasonably sure I would be watching it on TV too, happy.

  • by Shinobi ( 19308 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @04:01PM (#42421501)

    Considering that the ECMWF's model has proven itself to be more accurate than the GFS for a long while now, to the point that ECMWF are now working together with NOAA to improve the GFS, your complaint is invalid.

    The fact that US metereologists are complaining about US weather forecasting falling behind the EU should tell you something.

    NWS's own statistics backs up the conclusion: []

  • If they are so essential, why is there ALREADY a planned one year satellite gap?

    You're operating under the flawed assumption that congress has the public's best interest in mind. There was no PLANNED one year satellite gap, you fucking fool.

    Here, from June, 2012: []

    Congressional budget cutting will delay the launch of a key weather satellite and hinder tracking of killer hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather, officials warn.

    The satellite, which had been scheduled to launch in 2016, will be postponed 18 months because of spending cuts and delays. The threat during that gap is that National Weather Service forecasts will become fuzzier, with the paths of hurricanes and tornadoes even less predictable.

    With more budget cuts looming, further delays are possible — something President Obama alluded to last week. ...

    "There will be a data gap. That data gap will have very serious consequences to our ability to do severe storm warnings, long-term weather forecasts, search and rescue and good weather forecasts," Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator, told members of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee in April. ...

    Forecasters issued warnings five days ahead of tornadoes that struck Tuscaloosa, Ala., and five other states in April. A barrage of 312 tornadoes swept across the Southeast, killing 321 people. On storm day, forecasters gave warnings averaging 27 minutes before actual touchdowns.

    Likewise, when a tornado struck Joplin, Mo., killing 151 on May 22, forecasters gave warnings averaging 24 minutes before strikes.

    "The satellites are an important part of that early warning process," said Christopher Vaccaro, a spokesman for the service. ...

    Lubchenco said without information from the polar satellite, forecasts for a massive storm nicknamed "snowmageddon," which hit Washington in February 2010, would have had the location wrong by 200 to 300 miles and would have underestimated the snowfall by 10 inches. Hurricane tracking would also suffer, she said.

    "Our severe storm warnings will be seriously degraded," Lubchenco testified April 1 before the House Appropriations subcommittee governing the agency.

    Lawmakers and scientists lauded the value of the program, which provides forecasts for military troop deployments, ocean search-and-rescue missions and farmers tending crops.

    "It's important for public safety," said Christine McEntee, executive director of the American Geophysical Union. Cutting the funding "would be penny-wise and pound-foolish."

    Lubchenco credited the satellites with helping save 295 people in 2010 by helping track rescue beacons aboard ships.

    "That's saving lives, that's saving money," said Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House panel that oversees NOAA funding.

    But reduced federal spending threatens all domestic programs. Congress cut spending $38.5 billion in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. House Republicans propose to cut another $30 billion next year.

    So, there was never a planned gap. The damn funding got cut, and now it's getting cut some more. What's the point of having scientists advise on these issues if they get ignored? Fuck them, and fuck you. Can't prioritize anything or even look at the data and reason for yourselves. Go sleep in a tar-pit, you dickheads are hindering the herd.

  • by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @04:16PM (#42421621) Homepage Journal
    Drop the "fuck you" attitude until you come up with your own federal budget. It's hard; the money just isn't there to do all the things people want. What would you like to cut? Across-the-board cuts happen because they are much more politically palatable than targeted cuts.
  • by mrsquid0 ( 1335303 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @04:23PM (#42421669) Homepage

    Calibration data make up a significant amount of astronomical observations, and it can take months, or even years to properly calibrate astronomical instruments. For example, it took about three months to do the initial calibrations of the instruments on Swift, but there is still on-going calibration, eight years after launch. Calibrating these sorts of instruments so that they produce data that is consistent with data from other instruments is extremely difficult and time consuming. It is not a simple matter twiddling a wheel like tuning an ohmmeter.

  • by mybecq ( 131456 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @04:24PM (#42421691)

    As I recall the ... House is the ONLY part of government that has proposed and passed a budget

    Because generally, it is the only one authorized to. []

    (Of course, the Senate can propose amendments to those bills.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2012 @05:09PM (#42421949)


    Government cannot keep growing indefinitely (which is what it's doing at the moment).

    Based on what metric?

    Peak government employment? That was back in the 70s or 80s. Even now, government employment rolls are DOWN. That's right, lots of government employees have been laid off since the economy went sour. And Obama still has less people working for him than Reagan did.

    Per Capita spending? Adjusted for inflation, it's not actually significantly higher, unless you mindlessly include tax cuts as spending.

    So please, tell us how you've concluded government is growing, and on what terms. Give us some sources.

    Or just mindlessly claim something is happening, and don't make the effort to be sure your words are true.

  • by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @05:20PM (#42422017)
    Q: Would it be cheaper for every local government to have a space-based hurricane prediction system, or for the federal government to have a single one?
  • by SomeKDEUser ( 1243392 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @05:29PM (#42422073)

    Nice straw-man you build there.

    I am not American, and even then, I know that the budget needs to originate in the House, which has been of a Republican majority for a large part of said period. And like in every single other democracy, it is the leading party/coalition's job to formulate the budget. Now to be fair, knowing that the budget will be filibustered/voted down in the senate is not highly motivating.

    But then the very act of making a budget grounded in reality would be deemed treasonous by a large part of the GOP... You know, where you balance needs, wants long term and short term. Those things. And using arithmetic too.

    On the other hand, this does beg the question: why are people voting for a party for which the very act of governing seems too fucking hard? Also, why is said party presenting itself when it obviously wants to do fuck all?

  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @06:32PM (#42422435)
    Your assessment of how we handle things when times are good is valid: instead of investing surplus on paying down the debt or in infrastructure, we tend to blow it on the frivolities of the moment. However, this is incorrect:

    We had money to fund NOAA before the current people in charge borrowed more money than all previous administrations combined, why can't we go back to that?

    We blew the largest part of our budget surplus on the Bush Tax Cuts, the second largest part on the two wars, and the third largest part on stimulus and all of this, including the stimulus, was spent before the current people in charge took office. Under Obama we did spend additional money on stimulus, but all of that stimulus spending together, including stimulus tax cuts, are still less than the Bush Tax Cuts. Even if you believe that the stimulus spending was ill advised (which seems to be at odds with the results) the answer to the issue you raise about why we had money for NOAA before but not now is clear: we didn't. We never had the money to spend on those tax cuts, and all of the budgetary pain that we're going through now is the result.

  • Re:FIFTY (Score:4, Informative)

    by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Saturday December 29, 2012 @06:46PM (#42422511) Homepage Journal
    Your attention is drawn to []
    The 1980 calculation means has us closer to 10%, which bespeaks the pain at the grocery checkout far more accurately than the current Ministry of Truth offerings.
  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @07:40PM (#42422769)
    Okay. I used Duck Duck Go, 'cause that's how I roll, but this is the first result:

    Do Tax Cuts Increase Revenues? No, Tax cuts do not Increase Revenue []

    This is the second result (was a bad link, but I found it with some digging):

    Deficit Fraud Romney: Jobless Benefits Are Too Expensive, But The Bush Tax Cuts Increase Revenue []

    Quote from that second one:

    When it comes to the Bush tax cuts, revenue surely did not increase. In total dollars, the government collected about $1 trillion in income tax receipts in 2001, according to the Office of Management and Budget. This fell below one trillion for the next five years following the Bush tax cuts, not climbing above that level again until 2006.

  • by cornjones ( 33009 ) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @07:43PM (#42422783) Homepage

    results of your search are very mixed. the saddest thing i found when going through the google results is that I could tell what the article was going to say based on the source, ie all seemed partisan. Do you have any economic papers or non mass media sources that back up your analysis? This seemed to be the best source (on page 4 of hte results). But it seems to say the bush tax cuts were unsuccessful in their goals. []

  • Sure is easy to always hit the terrorists when "militant" is defined as a non-infant male killed by drone. []

    Any other bullshit you want to shovel asshole? You have blood on your hands by virtue of your blind suckage of the lies. That makes you an accessory to evil and as such, you deserve loathing just as the people pulling the trigger on "dogs" (the childlike two legged variety) in drone attacks deserve. [] [] []

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling