The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System is nearing the end of its lifespan. When decommissioned, NOAA will lose some of the essential weather data provided by the system for between 17 to 53 months, the GAO found. The blind spot could materialize as early as 2014.
Polar-orbiting satellites are often used to provide data about severe weather. They typically can forecast storms three to five days out. The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) will replace NOAA’s current constellation, but there could be a multi-year degradation of data between the time the current polar-orbiting satellite is decommissioned and when the JPSS is fully functional, the report said.
“A satellite data gap would result in less accurate and timely weather forecasts and warnings of extreme events, such as hurricanes, storm surges and floods. Such degradation in forecasts and warnings would place lives, property and our nation’s critical infrastructures in danger,” said the GAO in its 2013 High Risk Report.
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