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Everyone takes the daily weather forecast for granted, but what would you do without it? Congress has the power to ensure that every American citizen and business receives timely, accurate weather information, but only if they fully fund the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) -- the next-generation system of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather satellites.

NOAA did not receive the $1.060 billion requested in the President’s FY 2011 budget which was needed for instrument and space craft development to meet the planned JPSS-1 launch in 2016. As a result, an observational gap in the U.S. civilian polar-orbiting constellation, on which civilian and military users rely, is highly certain. This gap is expected to occur by 2017, between the end of the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) mission and the start of the JPSS-1 mission. The data gap length and magnitude of the impact to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) numerical weather prediction capability depends on the final outcome of the FY 2012 appropriations process.

An observational data gap will lead to less accurate and timely numerical weather prediction models needed to support weather forecasts across the country—placing lives, property, and critical infrastructure in danger. Without these observations, advance warning of extreme events and understanding of storm surge and flood potential will be significantly diminished at three days and beyond, making it more difficult to conduct safe and strategic evacuations, especially for short term (1-24 hour) forecasts. Additionally, these 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 critical data for weather forecasting for the $700 billion maritime commerce sector and provide a value of hundreds of millions of dollars for the fishing industry. The satellites save  $100 to $200 million per year for the aviation industry by enhancing volcanic ash forecasting alone and by providing critical data for drought and other forecasts worth $6-8 billion to the farming, transportation, tourism and energy sectors.

In addition to the economic benefits of the JPSS, the military relies heavily on polar-orbiting satellites as they provide critical information for long-term forecasts which are imperative for troop deployments and planning operations. If there is a data gap, it will affect not just the U.S. economy, but the safety of our troops.

Weather is an issue that touches every American—from planning daily commutes to picking travel destinations, from military troop deployment worldwide to business decisions made every day in the U.S. Aviation meteorologists use weather data to provide input on manpower and fuel usage for air transportation; trucking companies plan best routes to traverse the country when snow and inclement weather impact deliveries; farmers determine optimal times to plant and harvest crops and multinational retailers purchase seasonal inventory based upon longer term predictions. The potential secondary economic impacts from not forecasting the weather accurately put our nation’s economy at risk—the importance of accurate data to forecasting cannot be understated.

NOAA has indicated, if the JPSS program fails to receive the funds necessary to launch its first satellite, it could cost as much as three to five additional dollars for every one dollar the program does not receive. The observational data gap, which will result from a delay in fully funding the JPSS program, will have dire consequences to our economy, safety and security, and will end up costing taxpayers considerably more in the long run.

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