Scientists Warn of Public Safety Impact if Weather Satellite Program Remains Unfunded

19 May 2011

Joint Release

Ahead of Expected Active Hurricane Season, American Geophysical Union Calls on Congress to Restore Funding to the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS)

WASHINGTON—As the nation readies itself for an expected active hurricane season, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) calls on Congress to restore funding to the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), which will produce continuous data for weather forecasting, storm tracking and long-term monitoring that can save thousands of lives and billions of dollars each hurricane season. Additionally, AGU asks Congress to maintain funding to the National Weather Service (NWS), which will utilize JPSS data to issue forecasts and warnings for adverse weather events.

According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the 2011 hurricane season across the entire Atlantic Basin is expected to be above-normal. The seasonal outlook, which was released today, predicts a 70 percent probability of the following ranges:

  • 12 to 18 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), of which:
  • 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), including:
  • 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

“Last year, adverse weather was the direct cause of nearly 500 deaths, over 7,000 traffic fatalities and more than 700,000 additional injuries on our nation’s highways and roads,” said AGU Executive Director and CEO Christine McEntee. “Imagine how many more lives could be lost if funding is not restored for the satellite systems that are considered vital for the nation’s weather forecasting and storm tracking systems.”

If Congress does not provide the necessary $1.07 billion to the JPSS program, the country will be left with a serious gap in satellite data, significantly diminishing the two to three day advance warning of extreme weather events. In addition, the NWS needs $988 million to maintain operations.

“Funding JPSS is a national preparedness issue,” said McEntee. “A gap in satellite coverage could jeopardize everything from agriculture and aviation safety, to the oil and gas industry, to wildfire response and other search and rescue operations.”

AGU Contact:

Joan Buhrman, Manager, Strategic Communications, Phone: +1 202 777 7509, E-mail: [email protected]

Scientists with hurricane expertise are available for comment throughout the hurricane season. Please contact Joan Buhrman at [email protected] if you are interested in being connected with one of our experts from across the country.