The government does not control the weather. It does, however, exercise significant power over scientists’ ability to produce reliable forecasts.
Sequestration, the current budget crisis plaguing Congress, threatens widespread automatic spending cuts for all federal agencies starting March 1st. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s satellite program is one of many facing disruption. The agency’s current polar-orbiting weather satellite, Suomi NPP, is due to retire in 2016. Without funding to develop and launch a replacement, there will be a significant decline in the amount of data available for the computer models that are used to forecast the weather. Simply put, less data means less accurate forecasts. This will be especially important when meteorologists try to determine the path of future life threatening weather events like hurricanes and blizzards.
The sequestration is also expected to cut billions of dollars in federal aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy and reduce FEMA’s ability to respond to future natural disasters.