Beyond satellites, this potential NOAA cut would be devastating

Scott Weaver

Imagine a deadly tornado approaching your town without weather forecasters having the proper tools to adequately warn you or your neighbors about the impending threat.

President Trump’s proposal to cut 17 percent from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget will have a direct impact on the government’s weather forecast and warning capabilities – and on our economy – no matter how you slice it.

On the surface, it may appear that the administration is actually prioritizing NOAA’s weather prediction and warning apparatus, given the smaller 5 percent cuts to the National Weather Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. That’s in contrast to the 22 percent and 26 percent spending reductions for NOAA satellites and NOAA weather and climate research, respectively.

Here’s the clincher: The satellite line is essential for protecting critical real-time weather monitoring and prediction capacity for the National Weather Service, and for maintaining consistent record of climate observations. Just as important, however, are the weather and climate research advances that occur in NOAA’s laboratories – research developments that are regularly transitioned into weather prediction models and methods. 

In other words, you can’t surgically excise weather and climate research, or satellites, without undermining preparedness and putting American lives at risk in the face of increasingly extreme weather threats.

NOAA’s critical role has been evidenced during the growing number of costly weather disasters we’ve witnessed over the last several decades. Undermining the agency is simply antithetical to public safety, good government and a strong economy.

Just consider what would happen if we failed to maintain and improve our world-class climate and weather capability with another or massive tornado outbreak bearing down on homes and businesses.

Former NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco has called the Trump administration’s proposed cuts “draconian” and “devastating to the economy, jobs and to the safety and livelihoods of Americans in every state.”

It should give the White House pause.

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