Key Weather Satellite Fails

NOAA turns to spare satellite

Hurricane Sandy expands.     Photo: NOAA GOES-13 Satellite

A satellite designed to track sever weather has failed on the eve of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. Attempts are being made to reactivate the failing satellite, but NOAA reported that there is "no estimate on its return to operations." A spare satellite has been activated to provide coverage of the Eastern Seaboard.

Typically, two satellites are used to spot troubling weather—one each over the West and East coasts—with a third satellite in reserve. If the second functioning satellite fails, NOAA would be forced to rely on polar-orbiting satellites and more infrequent reports.

"We’re not blind in the Atlantic, so we shouldn’t have to worry about anything sneaking up on us that would go unobserved,” Thomas Renkevens, deputy division chief with NOAA's satellite products and services division, told Climate Central.

Experts say that America's weather and climate observing abilities have fallen into severe disrepair due to budget difficulties and poor management. The Government Accountability Office included "mitigating gaps in satellite data" on a list of the top 30 challenges facing the federal government. The next weather satellite won't be launched until 2015, though the sequester may delay the mission. Additionally, a year-long gap in polar satellite coverage is expected in 2017, potentially affecting the accuracy of medium-range forecasts.

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