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Issue:
The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) is critical to the United States’ infrastructure and economy. However, reduced funding could delay the first JPSS launch, which is scheduled for 2016. This delay will result in an unprecedented observational data gap by late 2016 to early 2017. The gap will lead to less accurate and timely numerical weather prediction models, impairing defense, disaster preparedness and local economy initiatives.

Background:
A system of three polar satellites provides global monitoring capability for the United States. All three share data to give forecasters and scientists a full view of the globe – including the poles. NOAA’s polar-orbiting satellites (POES and the future NPP and JPSS programs) and Europe’s Metop polar-orbiting satellite are the primary data sources for the National Weather Service (NWS) weather prediction models, which provide forecasts at a high confidence, two to seven days in advance. The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) is the latest generation of U.S. polar-orbiting, environmental satellites.

NOAA received less than half of the $1.06 billion in the President’s Fiscal Year FY2011budget request necessary for instrument and spacecraft development to meet the JPSS-1 planned 2016 launch date. There will be an unprecedented observational data gap between the end of the NPP mission and the start of the JPSS-1 mission. The length of the data gap and magnitude of the impact to the NWS’ numerical weather prediction will depend on the outcome of the FY2012 appropriations process. The President’s FY2012 budget request includes $1.07 billion for JPSS.

Discussion:
NOAA originally planned to launch the first two JPSS satellites in 2014 and 2018 respectively, but the FY2011 funding limitations will delay both satellites by at least 18 months. Without full funding there will be an unprecedented observational data gap in the U.S. civilian polar orbit, on which both civilian and military users rely, by late 2016 to early 2017. Restoring the funds after the fact WILL NOT prevent the gap from occurring in 2017, but it will help NOAA mitigate the impacts of the gap.

A data gap will lead to less accurate and timely numerical weather prediction models to support weather forecasting, and therefore place lives, property, and critical infrastructure in danger. Without these observations, advance warning of extreme events would be significantly diminished, as would the understanding of storm surge and flood potential—making it more difficult to conduct safe and strategic evacuations. Additionally, polar-orbiting satellites provide the only weather information for large swaths of the planet and are thus particularly important for overseas U.S. military operations.

NOAA’s polar-orbiting satellites are a critical piece of our nation’s infrastructure and are vital to the success of our economy. For example, polar-orbiting satellites provide data critical to accurate forecasts for the the $700 billion maritime commerce sector and provide a value of hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the fishing industry. The satellites save $100 to $200 million per year for the aviation industry by enhancing volcanic ash forecasts alone and in providing invaluable data for drought and other forecasts worth $6-8 billion annually to the farming, transportation, tourism and energy sectors in the United States.

Recommendation:
 Support and advocate for the President’s full FY2012 budget request for JPSS.

 

 

 

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