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Every morning millions of Americans wake up and immediately check weather.com or turn on The Weather Channel or their local news to view the day’s forecast. What the average American does not know is that without polar orbiting satellites, online resources and local weathermen would have little-to-no information to report. Polar orbiting satellites provide 93 percent of the data used in National Weather Service (NWS) forecast models. These forecast models are used to predict weather patterns and support the weather forecasts people rely on daily. More specifically, without the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), Americans will see a significant degradation in the accuracy of their two to ten day forecasts if the program is not funded in the President’s FY 2012 budget.

JPSS, a polar-orbiting environmental satellite system, will replace the current satellites expected to be defunct by 2016-2017. JPSS will provide a continuity of weather and climate data for meteorologists, oceanographers and research scientists to interpret and share so that the average American can make decisions about their personal and professional lives. 

Today, a system of three polar satellites—flown by NOAA, the Department of Defense (DoD), and Europe—provide the majority of the  global monitoring capability for the U.S. Together all three supply environmental data to help provide a full view of weather, climate and atmospheric conditions across the globe—including the poles. This information is vital to the nation’s ability to plan, predict and respond, as well as to protect lives and property.

If there is a lapse in the data disseminated by these satellites, not only will Americans be unable to access timely weather information, but emergency preparedness and response efforts surrounding natural disasters and severe weather systems will also be compromised. Without this information, citizen lives and property would be in increased jeopardy from hurricanes, tornados and blizzards. Additionally, the lasting impact this lapse would have on commercial industries across the country, including tourism, fishing and aviation, would be devastating from an operational and economical standpoint. JPSS is the only solution to avoiding this debilitating data gap.

Without polar observations, Americans will see a significant drop in the warning lead time for extreme weather events such as storm surge and flood potential. Without the two to three day advance warnings, state and local governments will find it infinitely more difficult to conduct safe and strategic evacuations of residents, for example in coastal towns.

When a hurricane approaches the coastline, a forecast predicts where the storm is expected to make landfall. Such warnings are typically based on multiple weather prediction models that use satellite, aircraft and land/ocean based observations to determine a hurricane warning area. By using the data available from JPSS, the cone or level of uncertainty for the landfall of the eye of the storm would be reduced by an estimated 875 miles in comparison to today’s predictions. The U.S. National Weather Service estimates that approximately two  million dollars per mile can be saved in evacuation costs by reducing the amount of uncertainty in each storm’s landfall. More importantly, fewer lives will be lost when the public realizes advanced warnings are more accurate.

 

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