WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a press conference Sunday, Senator Charles Schumer said past underfunding of the nation's hurricane tracking system may have led to miscalls on Hurricane Joaquin's track this week. The storm was originally expected to reach landfall along the East Coast but instead veered out to sea.
Schumer warned that, based on current proposals, the federal budget for a fleet of forecasting satellites may be cut by $245 million -- creating new problems as early as next year.
"In the era of super storms, accurate weather forecasts are not a luxury – they are a necessity. The information we gather on weather from high above the earth translates into safety on the ground," said Schumer. "It is just plain dumb to cut hundreds of millions from our weather satellite system just when catastrophic storms are getting more extreme and more frequent.
According to the Senator, House and Senate appropriations bills fail to provide enough funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) next generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites that scan the planet and provide critical data on atmospheric winds and moisture. That data is used by meteorologists when predicting weather forecasts up to seven days in advance.
Without construction of a new weather satellite, Schumer says, the U.S. will be reliant on only one polar-orbiting satellite beginning in 2016. There will be at least a one-year gap between the newest polar-orbiting satellite's design lifetime and the scheduled launch date of a replacement. He said that could significantly impact NOAA's ability to provide advanced notice of weather events like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Joaquin.
In a statement released Sunday, Schumer calls on his congressional colleagues to fully fund the upgrade, repair and replacement of essential elements of the U.S. Weather Satellite System to accurately predict the course of hurricanes and tornadoes.