On Thursday we reported on NOAA’s warning to congressional appropriators that budget cuts to a major satellite program, known as the Joint Polar Satellite System or JPSS, would severely erode the accuracy of weather forecasts. Today, six Democratic Senators took up NOAA’s cause, sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as well as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The senators are seeking full funding for JPSS during the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year.
“The horrific damage from the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, coupled with less extensive but still serious impacts in California, Oregon, and Hawaii underlined the importance of early detection and warnings of natural disasters,” the senators wrote. “To ensure the continuity or our nation’s early warning and disaster response system, we need to fully fund NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) in 2011.”
According to the senators, it would cost $528 million to keep the program on track this year. The senators cited the satellite’s role in everything from aiding timely severe weather warnings to providing data for aviation weather forecasts and reliable forecasts for Alaska, which is not covered by other NOAA weather satellites. Alaska Senator Mark Begich is one of the signatories. “From the family making an annual trip from the village to Anchorage to a crab-fisherman trying to stay safe at sea, Alaska is dependent on the data these satellites provide. Our businesses and our communities need the most accurate predictions possible,” he stated in a press release.