American Weather Industry Fighting Fiscal Cliff

By , Senior Meteorologist
November 16, 2012; 3:45 AM ET
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Critical work will continue for the time being on weather satellites and their upcoming launches thanks to the American Weather Industry. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which oversees these and many other projects, data and forecasts, is under increasing pressure to account for every dollar spent.

The efforts of AccuWeather, the American Meteorological Society, Global Weather Corporation, The Weather Channel, The Weather Coalition, the American Weather and Climate Industry Association and others have helped to persuade Congress to pass an extension of NOAA's budget through the first quarter of 2013.

The Stopgap Spending Bill, as it was called and recently passed into law as part of the continuing resolution, has given NOAA some flexibility in funding for development and deployment of next-generation weather satellites.

However, NOAA's satellite budget may still come in short of what was needed for Fiscal Year 2013 to fund all satellite programs fully.

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According to NOAA's eighth administrator (2001-2008), retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad, C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under the shortfall, new satellite programs may not be possible and funding could be drawn away from other programs such as research, equipment upgrades and National Weather Service staffing.

"The cancellation or scaling down of satellite and/or other programs could result in loss of not only government jobs, but some civilian jobs," Lautenbacher said.

A large portion of the weather satellites are built by the civilian industry.

The original budget request set forth earlier in 2012 for NOAA during Fiscal Year 2013 was approximately $5.1 billion.

Regarding the fiscal cliff, in addition to the potential strain on taxpayers, government operations, such as NOAA, may be forced to become more streamlined and strictly accountable for their operating expenses and research projects.

As of Nov. 14, 2012, the NOAA budget office was still in the process of creating a plan on how the funds in the continuing resolution will be utilized.

These measures could be extremely difficult in light of high-impact weather extremes in recent years ranging from hurricanes to debilitating snowstorms, tornado outbreaks, major flooding and the Plains/Midwest Drought.

According to the Commission on the Weather and Climate Enterprise (CWCE), the United States economic activity varies by up to $485 billion per year due to weather variability.

A statement submitted to Congress by CWCE earlier this fall, "Sixty percent of economic activity is affected by accurate weather forecasts. Jobs ranging from agriculture to energy, manufacturing, construction, entertainment, transportation, consumer spending, military readiness and national security are dependent on weather."

A lack of continuous equipment upgrades, including satellite technology, is likely to mean weather and climatology forecasts will fall behind the improvement curve, putting lives and property at greater risk.


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