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US Climate Satellite Capabilities In Jeopardy

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the potent-potables dept.

Earth 127

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Wired: "The United States is in danger of losing its ability to monitor key climate variables from satellites, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. The country's Earth-observing satellite program has been underfunded for a decade, and the impact of the lack of funds is finally hitting home. The GAO report found that capabilities originally slated for two new Earth-monitoring programs, NPOESS and GOES-R, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Defense, have been cut, and adequate plans to replace them do not exist. Meanwhile, up until six months ago, NASA had 15 functional Earth-sensing satellites. Two of them went down in the past year, and of the remaining 13, 12 are past their design lifetimes. Only seven may be functional by 2016, said Waleed Abdalati, a longtime NASA satellite scientist now teaching at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Taken together, American scientists will soon find themselves without the ability to monitor changes to key Earth systems at a time when such measurements could help determine the paths of the world's energy and transportation systems."

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Maybe... (5, Insightful)

sv_libertarian (1317837) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468248)

This will spark Congress to fund useful things like space exploration. Instead of stupid things. Like oh... pick something.

Re:Maybe... (4, Insightful)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468272)

This will spark Congress to fund useful things like space exploration. Instead of stupid things. Like oh... pick something.

You need to frame it differently. Find all the congressmen whose districts benefit from this one way or another and have them put in earmarks. Or spin it as some sort of Wall Street rescue package or bailout and watch the fat cats order Congress to fund it.

If you want to get something funded, go the route of pork or benefiting our financial overlords.

Re:Maybe... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468358)

Ahh of course. "Save Wall Street from flooding due to the Polar Ice Caps melting!" or some such.

Re:Maybe... (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32469084)

Maybe the ISS needs to elect both a congressman and a senator...

Re:Maybe... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 4 years ago | (#32470150)

The ISS isn't a US territory or state. The territories get a make believe representative with no actual power (like Washington DC), the other get a real representative to be corrupted just like the rest.

Re:Maybe... (5, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468288)

Like oh... pick something.

4 billion dollars in corn subsidies for large farming corporations in 2009.

Yup (1)

sv_libertarian (1317837) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468342)

Like that. Or any other corporate welfare

Re:Yup (2, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468430)

Not really, it's corporate welfare for people that adamantly oppose corporate welfare. Here in WA we've got a potential GOP senatorial candidate that got called out for receiving 350k+ in subsidies. He claims that if elected he'll get them cut. I don't think anybody believes him, and the GOP seems to be largely ignoring him.

Re:Yup (1)

sv_libertarian (1317837) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468544)

Didier? Yeah I'm probably going to vote Rossi (again lol)

Re:Yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468472)

Uh, your definition of 'corporate' is interesting.

Firstly, very many developed nations subsidise their agricultural sector enormously. Japan, Western Europe, the US - yep, pretty much most/all. The justification that is usually given is "because we want food security", e.g. in case of war.
Secondly, another reason is the number of people who live and work on farms. If you didn't subsidise, all of those people would be out of work. Those kinds of mass unemployment and mass migrations tend to cause unpleasant scenes in countries.
Thirdly, there's absolutely a possibility that political figures and big campaign donors benefit from the subsidies, and that loyal party supporters would rebel if they were cut.

Now, it's not exactly obvious for any given subsidy or subsidies as a whole which reason is "The True Reason". I suspect the reason the subsidies are still going on is because they have 'a little something for everyone', i.e. lots of different groups with different perspectives all find something they like, whether that's reason 1, 2 or 3. But simply saying "corporate welfare" is a bit too general and doesn't help understand the underlying issues.

Re:Yup (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468510)

I should also add - presently, US farming is highly structured, and has tended towards the most common form of organising a huge number of people to achieve a single goal, namely a corporation. That it's structured and large-scale is part of the reason why the farming output of the US and other developing countries is so incredibly much higher than in poor countries.

But imagine that these weren't corporations, but rather a mass of small homesteads that for some reason were highly efficient. This is the case in many countries in Europe.

In these countries, subsidies go on in exactly the same way, costs huge amounts of money, and the same reasons apply - they provide food security, they prevent mass unemployment and migration, and there's political figures in the hood (farmers can vote as well after all).

In other words, it has little to do with corporations, because the same thing would happen in the absence of corporations. At least using Europe as a yardstick.

Re:Yup (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468856)

In other words, it has little to do with corporations, because the same thing would happen in the absence of corporations. At least using Europe as a yardstick.

What your missing is the way our current laws are structured favors large, industrial corporate farms over small, independent farms. If you're a corporation with political pull we'll pay you ten times as much in government subsidies for every bushel of produce, thus artificially skewing the market in favor of those large corporations. That's what this has to do with corporations and "corporate welfare".

Re:Yup (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468924)

Wow did I really use "your" instead of (the correct) "you're"? I suck.

Re:Yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468976)

That sounds bizarre considering that farms that use machinery extensively tend to be much more productive than smaller farms that don't (which everything else being equal should struggle to achieve the same capital outlays).

So they produce more at a lower cost yet receive ten times as much in government subsidies? That must mean you don't have a single "private farmstead" left pretty much, OR, that the corporate farming industry is infathomably profitable, like picking gold off the ground, whilst the ordinary farming industry is just getting by. I am not sure that's the case going from their financial statements.

So what you are saying is that if you took all those huge corporations, split them up into smaller farms run by people living on the land, you could cut subsidies by 90%, still have the land being worked to the same extent, and the people earning as much as before? Well, OK.

Re:Obama did try to cut it (4, Insightful)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468984)

His 1st state of the union speech he identified a few billion of wasted farm money to cut from the budget. I thought it was naive move that only a city politician would make. It died so fast and so hard it never was mentioned ever again; either it was bargained or dropped. I've never heard it come up again so it didn't gain anything to bargain with the last time. You can forget about fixing this until Monsanto has a BP like disaster that destroys a huge amount of land or kills a few thousand people THEN obama can squeak bye some tiny fix-- just watch this Oil lobby keep most their welfare despite BP... now that Obama is after their welfare money with (more) public support.

Senators of worthless states have too much power since the filibuster became the most successful DoS attack on democracy a few generations ago. These punks blackmail the whole country all the time to get such pork and it costs far more than the few cases often cited as justification for the filibuster. (not saying it has to die, but it would be far better if it did die than if left around; we are currently on the worst side of two extremes.)

In my state, all we hear is cut spending etc; and its largely fueled by those who want it permanent; completely unaware that they want to be like Alabama or Mississippi and those states suck; you don't get to the top by being cheap (or wasting too much; although CA does pretty good so far considering their huge mess that continues to pile up... which comes full circle because CA's system is caused by a filibuster like situation!)

Furthermore, the biggest thing slowing the recovery during the great depression was lazy states cutting services and using the new deal to balance their budgets not put anybody to work; now we are repeating the mistakes again. FYI: look at the debt to GDP for WW2; also, government debt is good for buffering hard times but we've been exploiting it for far too long.... that doesn't mean it shouldn't be used for when its actually a good thing, like restoring the economy. Don't get into Fed arguments and currency with me, I'm aware of that mess - seriously do you people think if FDR couldn't touch the Fed who caused the great depression ANYBODY can touch them today??

Re:Yup (5, Informative)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468832)

Secondly, another reason is the number of people who live and work on farms. If you didn't subsidise, all of those people would be out of work.

I think you're missing the distinction. A lot of us are in favor of subsidizing small farmers in order to have a secure supply of food grown in our nation. The thing is, it used to be primarily small farms and a small portion of large agricultural operations. But large farming operations have driven the population you mention out of business and mostly out of work. 25% of the US lived and worked on farms in the 30's when the subsidies were first implemented. Now it's less than 2% of our population, with the majority of those subsidies going to huge corporate farms. In fact, a study a few years ago showed 73% of the subsidies are disproportionately paid to the 10% of farming production that makes up the largest, corporate farms. We not only subsidize larger farms more, but vastly more in proportion to what they make, underwriting their ability to drive out small farms and lower overall rates of employment.

But simply saying "corporate welfare" is a bit too general and doesn't help understand the underlying issues.

"Corporate Welfare" is a term used to describe bills and funding that move cash from tax dollars into the pockets of large corporations. It primarily happens because those corporations use their money to buy influence over the political system to create or modify laws in their favor. This is a pretty clear cut case of corporate welfare.

Re:Maybe... (4, Funny)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468346)

What is the cause of U.S. agricultural inefficiencies?

Do I win a prize? This is about Climate Satellites in Jeopardy, right?

Re:Maybe... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468386)

What is the cause of U.S. agricultural inefficiencies?

Do I win a prize? This is about Climate Satellites in Jeopardy, right?

Unfortunately you are not a climate satellite, so you don't win anything.

Re:Maybe... (2, Funny)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468422)

Unfortunately you are not a climate satellite, so you don't win anything.

I thought that's what this article is all about. The climate satellites haven't won anything for years.

So, what do I win?

Re:Maybe... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468562)

So if the candidates in a game show don't win, you call the broadcaster and claim the prize for yourself, because after all, the candidates didn't get it, and you knew the answer?

Re:Maybe... (4, Interesting)

plopez (54068) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468364)

Seriously, if you could sell it to the Ag. special interests as critical to their industry the spigots would open up and there would be more money than the climate researchers knew what to do with. Also push it as important to the satellite manufacturers and as a high tech jobs program. It's all in how you sell it.

Re:Maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32469012)

I'm all for farm subsidies.

no farmers = no food

Relying on imports for food seems like a bad idea.

Re:Maybe... (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#32470206)

And a lot of those subsidies are then paid out by the "Big agro" companies to individual farmers when they sell their grain to the ag company. The largest collector of subsidies, last I knew and it was a couple years ago was (assuming still is) Riceland. Riceland is a Coop. When we booked and sold our rice and soybeans through Riceland, the check they sent us included any federal farm subsidies. We've since built our own grain storage and now sell to whomever is paying the most at that time at the river, whether it be Cargill, Riceland, or ADM, but when they cut us a check, that check includes any federal farm subsides.

Re:Maybe... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32470258)

So, what exactly are you doing with the sig "The problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other people's money" - Thatcher., anyway?

Re:Maybe... (1)

cjjjer (530715) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468390)

Like oh... pick something.

Like space exploration?

Seriously it's time that we as a people get our ducks in a row as it were and start funding things that are going to help all of the people all of the time instead of helping a dozen corps make money.

Re:Maybe... (3, Insightful)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468988)

Yes because NASA never invented [howstuffworks.com] anything [nasa.gov] we use every single day.

We get HUGE bang for our buck in NASA. If you want to cut wasteful spending, you could cut NASA's budget several dozen times over from the military and they'd barely feel it. NASA is probably the best example we have of a government organization gone right, and all people seem to want to do is cut it because they don't understand how science works. Things like NASA exist because all of their inventions came out of necessity of the incredibly complex things they were doing. Those inventions make billions of dollars for many companies. We probably wouldn't have invented half the stuff NASA has come out with because the current stuff we had was "good enough" for life down here on Earth.

Re:Maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468444)

Like oh... pick something.

Very expensive spy satellites. Which is exactly why the government isn't interested in weather satellites.
Even if there where no weather satellites left, they would still get more earth data than they could even look at, including more weather information than they would care for.

Let someone else (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468748)

How about some other countries picking up the tab for a change? Why does the USA have to be the country responsible for everything? (yeah, I'd rather have the USA do it than anyone else, but just saying some other countries should chip in some bucks once in a while)

Re:Let someone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468842)

Yet another uneducated fool shooting his mouth off. I know this is difficult concept for the tax-enough crowd, but why not try READING SOME OF THE FACTS? Exactly how does the US launching weather satellites to monitor the weather over the US help other countries? How does the US launching weather satellites to improve severe weather warnings over the US HELP OTHER COUNTRIES? Why would England want to pay for a satellite to watch over US weather?

Try http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/ for facts rather than spouting off and proving to the whole world you are a clueless idiot

Re:Let someone else (1)

siride (974284) | more than 4 years ago | (#32469852)

Well, since weather over the US, or anywhere else, is influence by weather elsewhere, monitoring weather over the US is actually quite important for Europe, especially given the storm track from west to east (from North America to Europe).

Re:Let someone else (2, Insightful)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468990)

Because we're the leading research country in the world and we like to keep it that way?

Re:Let someone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32469754)

Do you like to know when a hurricane is head your way, or a tornado? Do you want warning? Will you pick up the tab for all the people killed when the first hurricane hits ground after the satellites are dead and we have no warning?

Idiot

Re:Maybe... (3, Insightful)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468944)

This will spark Congress to fund useful things like space exploration.

You haven't been watching the way things work in Washington for very long, have you? Programs like this don't lose their funding because they're too expensive or bad ideas. They lose their funding because somebody doesn't like the science they're doing. In this case, it's probably the same gang of denialists who have been fighting tooth and nail against any substantive program to do anything about global warming. They see scientists being unable to tell us what's happening with global warming as a victory, so they'll fight harder than ever to keep denying funding.

Re:Maybe... (1)

Alcoholist (160427) | more than 4 years ago | (#32469536)

Like wars in strange lands far away who are no threat to you? 1 trillion dollars buys a lot of space program. Oh, but wait, space programs don't make rich people richer...

Oooo Nooooos!!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468254)

Lordy lordy we in a heap of troubles now

GOES-R (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468300)

GOES-R?

Wasn't that the badguy in Ghostbusters?

Re:GOES-R (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468402)

Are you the key master?

Insane Republicans (1, Insightful)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468336)

The money has all been used up on the much more important (sarcasm) war on Iraq. While Obama has continued these wars when he should have killed them immediately, I doubt we would have gotten as much from McCain/Palin alternative and the Republicans, who ignore the data and as well believe in religious nonsense more than science.

Because of Republican ideologies, important environmental and human health needs are ignored while we spend billions on a war in Iraq. I call it the result of a mental disorder.

With the health care bill for instance, it is disgusting that we would have Republicans basically murder thousands of more people each year by blocking the health care reform, which will safe millions of lives, while their is always enough money for their stupid wars.

The US needs to be investing in renewable energy like wind and solar and nuclear fusion development, and on energy efficient improvements to cities to base them on public transit, bike and pedestrian use, and we need to put in tariffs to keep the jobs in the US to fix our economy which has been damaged by offshoring which Republicans love as it increases corporate profit at the expense of working americans.

Re:Insane Republicans (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468354)

The health care bill was nothing more than a health insurance industry bailout that is going to make citizens slaves to a private industry lest they pay the big boss man a pound of flesh for their sins.

Oh, BTW? Democrats start wars and outsource too. But as long as you keep playing the two party game there is no reason for either of them to change. Sorry to bust your bubble.

Re:Insane Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468464)

Starting a war, withdrawing and letting the areas descend into anarchy? If you start a war you should stay and take responsibility for it.

You are blind (4, Interesting)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468482)

The money has all been used up on the much more important (sarcasm) war on Iraq. ...Because of Republican ideologies, important environmental and human health needs are ignored while we spend billions on a war in Iraq. I call it the result of a mental disorder.

Social spending was not decreased to fund the war in Iraq. Social spending ballooned during the Bush administration. Also? Democrats voted for the war in Iraq as well. The vast majority of them. And they keep voting to fund it. And they have continued to not vote to fund the satellites since taking control of Congress.

With the health care bill for instance, it is disgusting that we would have Republicans basically murder thousands of more people each year by blocking the health care reform, which will safe millions of lives, while their is always enough money for their stupid wars.

What part of the health care reform bill will save thousands of lives? Do you even know what the bill does? Have you read any of it? Even a summary? All the bill does is give more money to insurance corporations, force people to buy health insurance who didn't before, and tax the middle class. That's it. There's no magic spells in it to save lives. You've swallowed the partisan bullcrap hook, line, and sinker.

The US needs to be investing in renewable energy like wind and solar and nuclear fusion development, and on energy efficient improvements to cities to base them on public transit, bike and pedestrian use,

Wait, what do you want us to spend money on? Earlier you made it sound like you wanted the money spent on health care, now you want it on energy development? Wasn't this article about the lack of funding for earth sensing satellites? You're rambling just a bit...

and we need to put in tariffs to keep the jobs in the US to fix our economy which has been damaged by offshoring which Republicans love as it increases corporate profit at the expense of working americans.

You really are completely blinded by partisan rhetoric, aren't you? First off, Democrats are just as pro-corporate (if not even more pro-corporate) than Republicans. There's no difference in the parties there. Second off, how would tariffs help our economy? If we raise tariffs, then everyone we trade with raises tariffs, and then suddenly OUR products are too expensive to be sold in other countries. So you'd raise tariffs to save some worthless manufacturing jobs at the expense of our high-tech industries? That's a policy of insanity.

Re:You are blind (2, Insightful)

FatSean (18753) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468534)

Wow. That was a bunch of awesome talking points condensed into one post.

It really is sad that the Demcorats caved into the ranting white trash who wanted revenge for 9/11. Even though 9/11 was mostly revenge for our decades of meddling in the Middle East.

But go on with those tired talking points. Let the right-leaning Americans die for lies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Re:You are blind (2, Insightful)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468594)

It really is sad that the Demcorats caved into the ranting white trash who wanted revenge for 9/11.

Ah bigotry, the game the whole family can play.

But go on with those tired talking points. Let the right-leaning Americans die for lies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Why don't you tell me where I'm wrong, then?

Re:You are blind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468996)

He did tell you where you were wrong "http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0502-aaas.html [mongabay.com]" but of course you choose ignored it.

Re:You are blind (1)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32469150)

Wow, epic fail.

1) That's not the post I was responding to. Had you actually read my response you'd of noticed the quotes didn't match the post you are referring to.
2) That link in no way disagrees with my thesis, as whether or not Bush suggested funding cuts, Congress is actually in charge of the purse strings, so any deficiencies in funding of these satellites is the fault of BOTH PARTIES. At least learn grade school civics, please, if you're going to attempt to be a productive member of society.

Re:You are blind (5, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468642)

While many of your points are correct and the person you are replying to is a bit of an ass, let's not forget that these cuts occurred under Bush. See for example http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0502-aaas.html [mongabay.com] . Part of the logic here seemed to almost be "I don't believe that climate change is a problem or is occurring and if I cut your funding you won't be able to show that it is bad." Or something very close to that. This particular problem really can be blamed on the Bush admin.

Re:You are blind (4, Insightful)

Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468836)

This particular problem really can be blamed on the Bush admin.
You fail civics 101. The appropriations bills begin in the US House of Representatives. Which party has controlled that body since 2006? The Democrats. Ergo if it were truly important to them they could have restored or increased the funding upon gaining control of the legislature.

Re:You are blind (5, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468896)

I'm not arguing that the Democrats didn't screw the pooch on this one. But budgets are always political compromises, and when the President pushes repeatedly for cutting funding of somethings, he's going to end up getting some of those funding cuts.

Re:You are blind (1, Insightful)

javelinco (652113) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468840)

Sure, Bush was president, as if that meant anything in this area. But do you really believe the executive branch cut the purse strings/funding for the project? Do they even teach how the government of the United States works anymore? Hint: the executive branch doesn't get to play with providing funding. Let me get you a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_powers_under_the_United_States_Constitution [wikipedia.org] . Check out the section on "Checks & Balances" and the differences between the Legislative and Executive branch. And try not to drink the KoolAid - while the Executive branch wields a lot of power, and is often indirectly (and sometimes directly) responsible for what happens under their watch, law & funding wise - the President is usually just a good scapegoat.

Bush believed in AGW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32469018)

GWB believed in AGW and his personal residence is very energy efficient. Why would he bother to pay up for an efficient house if he didn't believe in AGW? He certainly didn't get any positive press for it and he could easily have paid the utilities either way. It's time to stop making up shit.

Re:You are blind (1)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32469696)

I'm rather annoyed that this alarmist article doesn't mention exactly which satellites they're referring to. I'm willing to bet the majority (if not all) of them do not have "monitor climate change" as a primary mission, and therefore belief or disbelief in AGW had nothing to do with the lack of interest in funding them. In particular, the GOES are weather satellites first and foremost. GOES only requires 2-3 active satellites, and there's currently 4 in orbit (two active, two spares in "storage orbits"), so if the report is including GOES-11 through GOES-14 as satellites we're in danger of losing, it's being disingenuous. GOES-R has been scaled back due to cost overruns, and NPOESS has been split into two separate satellite packages for the same reason. Note NPOESS was split up THIS year, not during the Bush administration, so this again has nothing to do with "I don't believe in AGW".

Also, as others have pointed out, the President does not control the budget, Congress does. He can list priorities and he can veto a budget he doesn't agree with, but Congress decides what gets funded. So yeah, BOTH parties are guilty of not funding earth sciences. This has nothing to do with their belief in climate change and everything to do with the fact that things only get funded if a) Congressmen can use it to get votes/money or b) it's an emergency. I work with the FAA. Did you know the majority of terminals in the US run on systems designed in the 70s and 80s? And that a replacement was built in the early 90s, but Congress doesn't want to fund its deployment?

Not funding replacements for systems that should be replaced but are working "good enough" for the time being is not unique to earth-sensing satellites. It's standard operating procedure. Why do you think Congress never replaced the Category III flood protection in New Orleans with Category V protection? Because the Category III hadn't failed yet. :)

Re:Insane Republicans (2, Insightful)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468824)

It's OK, the right wing Republicans have God on their side. He'll tell them the weather if they just read their bible enough times. And we all know that God is on the side of capitalism, big oil, and Rush Limbaugh. No need to worry about global warming, it doesn't exist.

Re:Insane Republicans (1, Interesting)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#32469284)

The US needs to be investing in renewable energy like wind and solar and nuclear fusion development, and on energy efficient improvements to cities to base them on public transit, bike and pedestrian use, and we need to put in tariffs to keep the jobs in the US to fix our economy which has been damaged by offshoring which Republicans love as it increases corporate profit at the expense of working americans.

Every time I try to go somewhere the road is blocked by another truck hauling a 75 foot long wind turbine blade trying to make a left turn to head to the new wind farm. The local businesses are in near revolt because they can't get a building permit if they don't include a 6 foot wide paved bicycle/pedestrian path in the plans and all of the local buses have bicycle racks mounted on them. With the new bus system interconnects in our area, I can travel by public bus 150 miles! Just because your not seeing big dog and pony shows about something doesn't mean its not happening.

National Security (2, Interesting)

Nemilar (173603) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468340)

This will probably wind up getting funding for one reason -- national security. It's vital to defense to be able to monitor (and to a large degree, predict) the weather. Think multi-billion dollar supercarrier fleet accidentally heading into a hurricane.

Or does the defense department have their own weather satellite network?

Re:National Security (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468436)

We at the DoD can neither confirm nor deny the existence of whether changing technology somewhere outside the stratosphere.

Re:National Security (3, Informative)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468654)

Or does the defense department have their own weather satellite network?

That's a good question. It's wrapped up in this story.

The short answer is that yes, DoD has its own weather satellite network for the polar orbiting capability. It's called DMSP [wikipedia.org] , and it's the granddaddy of polar orbiter weather satellites. Spacecraft from that program are still flying, but no new ones are being acquired. After the current and on-orbit spares are gone, that's probably it.

Why?

As part of a Clinton-administration order, all US weather satellite operations and acquisition activities were "converged" into a single agency. DoD lost its ability to independently acquire military weather sats, or begin development of new ones. The joint Earth observation satellite program now includes NOAA, NASA, and the DoD, and they have a limited budget and somewhat conflicting goals. But the practical effect is that everyone has to contribute to, and use when they become available, the next-generation EO satellites the article was talking about. To replace DMSP birds, the DoD is depending on NPOESS, since that's the next-gen polar orbiter.

Re:National Security (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32469842)

That was changed earlier this year - the NPOESS was terminated and DoD and NASA/NOAA are now on separate development paths. DoD will be responsible for the morning polar satellites while NASA/NOAA will develop satellites for the mid-afternoon orbits. The United States will continue to rely on the European Metop satellites for weather data in the morning orbit.

Broader question (1)

cappp (1822388) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468350)

Does anyone know anything about how the US network integrates with it's foreign equivelants? Is there any integratation? The ESA and Japanese Agency both profess to have, albeit limited, capabilities in this area and I seem to remember a little collaboration between the various structures. Am I just imagining things?
Regardless, doesn't it make sense for this sort of mission to occur within an international framework. Metric jokes aside, wouldn't it be fairer for everyone to take on the cost of these satellite systems? Perhaps I'm confused as to what they're there for - are they an investement into modelling and technology so as to promote American scientific superiority, some kind of early warning and monitoring system, or an elaborate dick waiving contest?

Re:Broader question (2, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468462)

Sputnik set the legal overflight idea. The US invested in science to catch up the science gap. Flushed with ww2 German tech they trained a generation to a very high standard.
The problem with an educated public is they are hard to manage.
American scientific needs slipped, public funding slipped and science outside of military-industrial complex was cut.
The public became more predicable and profits where safe.
The dick waiving contest ended with the Soviets, collaboration means giving up control and a loss of face.
Early warning and monitoring will be the preserve of the US military sat networks until the sats fail in a public way.
The 1998 Galaxy 4 sat issues and the pager network failure might provide an insight. The data stops, people realise they paid a premium for little backup and ask questions, only to be distracted very quickly.
New sats will be launched but weather science is not an issue with traction after climate gate ect.

Re:Broader question (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468972)

Do you always interpret every historical event in such a way that makes it sound like a conspiracy?

Re:Broader question (1)

etresoft (698962) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468628)

Does anyone know anything about how the US network integrates with it's foreign equivelants?

There are no foreign equivalents. There is collaboration, but US funding and capabilities dwarf those of other countries. Foreign governments do not fund much space activities other than subsidizing industry satellites, but those aren't very useful for science.

Re:Broader question (1)

hcpxvi (773888) | more than 4 years ago | (#32470676)

There are no foreign equivalents.
This is less true than it was since the launch of Metop-A in 2006 to cover the morning polar sun-sync orbit. (An AC already noted this above.) Everything I have heard about NPOESS (the US programme to provide new weather satellites for the afternoon slot) is that it has been a huge trainwreck, with massive cost overruns and delays.
Foreign governments do not fund much space activities other than subsidizing industry satellites, but those aren't very useful for science.
Eh? See above, and also Google for Envisat. Or even GoSat. And note that these are research missions, very different from NOAA K, L, M, NPOESS and MetOp, which are operational missions. It is a different (but not unconnected) story that there will be rather a gap in such research missions once the Envisat, Aura and SciSat-1 missions cone to an end.

Gna.;a (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468360)

Waste of money anyway (0, Troll)

Airdorn (1094879) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468366)

Who needs climate satellites when all the facts are available for the taking from the White House press office?

Re:Waste of money anyway (1, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468442)

And where exactly does the White House get these facts? This isn't like the Bush administration which could just make things up, because quite frankly a lot of idiots out there buy into it and the press gives him a largely free pass.

Re:Waste of money anyway (0, Troll)

Airdorn (1094879) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468546)

How dare you question the voracity of the White House's facts. Your insolence is disturbing.

Maybe they want it this way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468384)

Maybe it will be EASIER without these satellites to force massive regulation and taxes on the lowly serfs in this world if there is less information available, so we will all just have to take their word for it that their massive expansion of government control over commerce and people will 'fix the environment'.

After all, if these satellites are working, someone might actually look at the REAL data and discover the truth and expose the lies and deceptions that were in the 'filtered' data they are given by the priests of climate science.

Let's collaborate (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468392)

Environmental monitoring seems like one area where the US does not need to be self-sufficient. I wonder if we could work more closely with Europe and Japan so together we'd get all the data we need without having to foot the whole bill.

Re:Let's collaborate (4, Informative)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468504)

The US is too large to receive adequate coverage from across the Atlantic and Pacific. Japan has had its own problems with an imagery gap and was using GOES-9 [wikipedia.org] on loan from us until a few years ago. Geosynchronous satellites can't easily be repositioned as it wastes fuel that is needed for basic stationkeeping.

Re:Let's collaborate (2, Informative)

etresoft (698962) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468640)

I wonder if we could work more closely with Europe and Japan so together we'd get all the data we need without having to foot the whole bill.

We already do that. One of the key instruments on NASA's Terra satellite is Japan's ASTER. Terra is on year 11 of a 5 year mission. But Japan's funding in this area is much smaller than that of the US.

Re:Let's collaborate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32469882)

The GOES satellites are geosynchronous, no other country is interested in U.S. weather except perhaps Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean nations. (well unless a country is planning on invading, then U.S. weather becomes an issue, but then that's what polar orbit weather satellites are for, the Military, whole earth coverage every 30 hours)

Keep in mind that these are NOT just something for "climate research" these are THE weather satellites that watch hurricanes, and track the weather above North America and part of the western Pacific and eastern Atlantic.

Outsourced (1, Funny)

Bazman (4849) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468396)

Why launch your own satellites when you can just get the data from other nations - doubtless India and China will be launching plenty of satellites soon, Europe still puts up the odd bird, Japan, Korea etc etc.

Even if they dont sell you the data, all you need are some radios and the FBIs decryption machinery and the weather info will be on the torrent sites before it's out of date. Err maybe.

Re:Outsourced (5, Informative)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468586)

Because where the satellite is has a large impact on the data.

There are really only two classes of orbit for Earth-observation satellite platforms: geostationary and low-earth polar. In the summary, GOES-R is the US follow-on geostationary, and NPOESS is the US follow-on polar orbiter.

Geostationary satellites provide continuous coverage but somewhat low resolution, and coverage of the same hemisphere of the Earth at all times. Because satellite observations at the limb of the visible hemisphere is low-quality (low incident angle with the Earth's surface, long slant path through the atmosphere, etc.), you really can't just have two geos for the entire world. You need at least four, at 90 degree offsets, and more if you can afford it. The US operates two: GOES-11 and GOES-12, out over the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean respectively. There are more, operated by other nations, and we do share data with them. We even coordinate operations: When the Japanese Meteorological Agency had its on-station geosat (GMS-5) fail and its replacement failed to reach orbit after launch, the US reactivated the retired Pacific geo GOES-9, shifted its orbit to cover GMS-5's slot, and leased it to the Japanese. (Leased, of course, because (A) you need to cover the additional costs of operating another satellite, and (B) why walk away from profit?)

So, what's the point of that little discussion? If the US loses both of current active geostationaries, someone else (another nation) would have to shift an existing spacecraft over to cover it and lease it to us. That's a bit bigger than "sharing the data", which, as I point out, we already do. And that's also only a temporary state of affairs, since no one will ever shift over their primary on-station geostationary. It'd have to be a spare, and probably not a future spare, but a deactivated retired spacecraft, and therefore very very temporary.

That's geostationary spacecraft. In summary, the US needs to have 2 spacecraft stationed at 135 degrees West and 104 degrees West, and no one else will be providing them on any terms and with any permanence we'd need in order to rely on them.

Polar-orbiters? Kind of a similar situation. A polar-orbiting earth-observing spacecraft orbits at about 100 miles up and an orbital inclination of about 80 degrees. (A 90 degree orbital inclination passes over both poles; a 0 degree inclination parallels the equator.) That orbital path allows the spacecraft to look down at Earth in a track that eventually (approximately every 30 hours) covers the entire surface of the Earth. But that's a long time between looks at a particular spot on Earth. The low orbit provides wonderful resolution: each pixel in the imagery of one of the next-generation polar orbiters can be as small as 400 meters. For meteorology and climate observation, that's fantastic. But very low frequency. So you need multiple spacecraft to provide adequate temporal resolution (each pixel is newer than 24 hours). Also, different spacecraft can look at any given point on Earth at different local times (i.e., one spacecraft sees Albuquerque at about 6 AM local time, the next sees it at around 2:30 PM.) This matters because time-of-day variation and sun zenith angle matter at the resolutions and sensitivities of the instruments in question.

No one but the US operates polar orbiters in the polar slots that the US currently occupies, so no one can provide the data for us to use.

So? (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468400)

Enough people who couldn't care any less. And frankly I don't too.

The whole point about climate change isn't climate change.
There is only one question. Do you want to poison and pollute the world we're living in?

Re:So? (4, Informative)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468702)

I think the climate angle of this story is being overplayed. Makes sense, really; that's the sexy hot topic in the big-brain set, and a great way to sell if you're selling satellites.

But these aren't just climate change "OMG Evil CO2" satellites. These are operational meteorological satellites. If you like decent weather forecasts and value the ability to track hurricanes and typhoons (and other assorted tropical storm phenomena), you care about these spacecraft. Satellite meteorology has revolutionized severe weather handling and medium-range weather forecasting for the last 40 years. Let's not quit now because Al Gore has painted the cross of Climate Change on the sides of these spacecraft.

Re:So? (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468760)

Thx. +1 Informative from me :)

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32469478)

Well I hope you don't live in a area that is subject to hurricanes,(Texas Florida Georgia North or South Carolina, Louisiana. Mississippi) or in tornado alley, because without those satellites you won't know if a hurricane or severe thunderstorm is coming anymore. Forget about reliable weather forecasts too.

Re:So? (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 4 years ago | (#32469560)

Regardless of what we can do about climate change, if we're responsible for it, or the fact that the things we do in the name of "climate change" are things we should be doing anyways, satellite observation is incredibly important. We need information about Earth so we can act in a responsible manner to preserve the planet as well as ourselves.

It's all very well and good to say "just don't fuck with it," but the truth is even if we were perfect, the world would still change in ways we cannot predict. Earth observation satellites help us understand the world we live in so that we--or at least those of us who care about science--can better predict the long-term consequences of our actions.

Re:So? (1)

Jaime2 (824950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32470500)

Do you want to poison and pollute the world we're living in?

That's a loaded question. If that were the only question, then nearly all modern society would be thrown away. The result would be a population drop to under 4 billion people and a much lower quality of life for the survivors. Besides, poison is relative, so the question doesn't even have a precise meaning. There's a bumper crop of oil-eating bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico this summer.

The sad part is... (4, Insightful)

tiny69 (34486) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468408)

...someone probably received an award and promotion for claming they saved the government money.

tom skilling / the weather channel can't pitch in? (0)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468432)

tom skilling / the weather channel can't pitch in? and maybe even launch there own?

manbearpig! (0, Offtopic)

ufoolme (1111815) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468438)

Quick someone call Al Gore, manbearpig has reached orbit

ISS (0, Offtopic)

clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468440)

I am confused. What exactly is the sprawling, flexible, fully staffed, heavily equipped, mult-billion dollar scientific research platform for? Apparently it is NOT to be used for astronomy, Earth imaging, or climate data collection. That leaves .... ummm ... growing seeds and crystals in microgravity ... and .... ummm ... shrinking bones and muscles in microgravity. But she shore is purty when she passes overhead. Sheesh.

Hide the decline has gone overbored. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468474)

"We can't fudge the data anymore!!!" "Underfund the satellite!"

last thing needed in the global warming debate is: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468492)

facts.

politicians hate 'em.

Historical Record... (3, Informative)

Lunatrik (1136121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468530)

One thing that is frequently overlooked is the importance of comparable satellites through time for long-term environmental monitoring. This makes collaboration with other countries /sensors challenging, as to say Landsat ETM data's ~30m (for example) is comparable to SPOT data's ~10m (again, for example) is quite a stretch. Common tools for taking care of these differences are fraught with problems, and worse still many people don't care about or just ignore these problems during analysis....

Re:Historical Record... (5, Informative)

etresoft (698962) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468682)

It is even harder than that. Resolution isn't important for science - spectral bands are. Landsat ETM+ has 8 bands, while SPOT has 4. The MODIS instrument alone on NASA's Terra and Aqua spacecraft has 36 bands. ASTER has 15 bands just for infrared.

Re:Historical Record... (4, Informative)

Lunatrik (1136121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32468706)

"Resolution isn't important for science"

Spatial resolution is very important in my field (Land Use/Cover analysis), mostly due to Modifiable Areal Unit (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modifiable_areal_unit_problem) / Ecological Fallacy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_fallacy) issues.

That being said, I do agree Spectral resolution is very important as well, and a difference I shouldn't have omitted in my original post. Even radiometric and temporal resolution matters when you get down to it.

The "free market" will save us (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468752)

Why should government have to do it.

If it's truly important, then there must be money in it.....
If there's money in it, then some commercial entity make a business case for it...
If no company wants to do it, then it must not be all that important.

Gee how convient.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32468772)

So at a time when scientist need them the most to make their case for global climate change,, Now who might want us to not be able to have more facts to prove that the climate is in fact changing and warming...

why would this matter? (-1, Flamebait)

gearloos (816828) | more than 4 years ago | (#32469066)

Most of the research being done isn't based on factual scientific evidence anyway, Mr. Gore probably won't even notice anything missing...

awg, denier (1)

astar (203020) | more than 4 years ago | (#32469074)

I sort of figure an honest awger and a honest denier would like to see lot of new data from a lot of different sources. But let speculate that awg is flakey. Then figure the reasons are at a geopolitical level. For instance, to eliminate sovereigny (spelling) or real tech progress, then new good data might well be inconvenient.

If you figure this is just a dem sort of behavior, looking at Cheney and at GW doing geopolitics would be instructive.

Smart money (1)

papagede (1826876) | more than 4 years ago | (#32469192)

Well, between the 350 report and BP oil spill government planners realized there will be no environment to monitor pretty soon :) Why spend the money ;

I knew Waleed back when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32469382)

I knew Waleed back when he was grunt researcher taking gps measurements on the Greenland icesheet and I was a grunt programmer. He has really done well on his own initiative, rising through many roles of importantance. Meanwhile nearly 20 years later, I'm still a grunt programmer. "No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun." Pink Floyd.

No Problem (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 4 years ago | (#32469952)

We don't need no stinking satellites. We make this climate stuff up now as we go along.

It's a cover up! (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 4 years ago | (#32470208)

I think it's pretty obvious. The oil plume as reached space.

NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32470234)

Of course this will just make it easier for NASA to fake the temperature numbers.

anti-intellecutalism (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32470564)

It's sad to see that anti-intellectualism has taken such a foot hold on this website. So much for news for nerds. It's amazing seeing people here arguing in favor of cutting science research.

Underfunded For A Decade? What Happened In 2000? (1)

cmholm (69081) | more than 4 years ago | (#32470586)

So, climate satts have been underfunded for ten years. Who took over the funding and policy apparatus in 2000 that might have led to this? Hmmm, could it be [washingtonpost.com] ... SATAN [nytimes.com] ?

Shared effort between US and Europe (1)

onet (109352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32470882)

There is an agreement between ESA/EUMETSAT on the European side and NASA/NOAA on the American side that the burden of Earth observation is shared.

For operational polar satellites, Europe takes care of the morning orbits and the US does the afternoon orbits. Both sides share (or intend to share) all data in Near Real Time (NRT).

Also sensors/instruments are exchanged and mounted on platforms (read: satellites) from the other partner in the agreement. This can mean that a sensor built in the US can be flown on a European satellite.

Nowadays the aim at space agencies/operators is to avoid duplication of sensors and share what there already is. In this way a reduction in funding for Earth observation can be achieved. However, it should not drop below the minimum required to keep your end of the agreement and also needs to be enough to keep the knowledge 'current'.

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