Lack of Funding Could Mean Gaps in Weather Forecasting, Wilderness Rescue

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The continuing resolution that’s keeping the federal government operating does not include hundreds of millions of dollars to replace polar orbiting satellites, and that could mean a gap in  service depended on for weather forecasting and wilderness rescue in Alaska.  Fairbanks meteorologist and Alaska Region Chair of the National Weather Service Employees Organization Jim Brader says there are long lead times on new satellites and the  current ones are expected to fail by 2016.

That concerns Brader because the polar orbiters are best at tracking clouds across interior and northern Alaska.  The satellites orbit about 500 to 600 miles above the earth’s surface, a low orbit that provides a much sharper resolution. He says their loss would hurt weather observations and forecasting.

Brader says satellite data is also loaded into computer programs to characterize weather conditions, including temperature, for areas over oceans where the weather service does not send up weather balloons.  He says the polar satellites also transmit signals from emergency locator beacons.

Brader says delayed funding for polar orbiting satellites is expected to increase their replacement cost 3 to 5 times, as the project will have to be rushed.

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