NOAA Response to Markey Details Budget Attacks on Weather Alerts, Climate Research as Nation Gripped by Massive Heat Wave
WASHINGTON (July 19, 2011) – The mercury may be rising across the country, but House Republicans are reducing the funding that allows our government’s weather and climate experts to better forecast short-term extreme weather events and long-term climate trends. The cuts, engineered by a House Republican caucus that has turned against the science of climate change, would damage the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) climate and weather services that provide rapid alerts and information to our nation’s weather forecasters and citizens.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today assailed these cuts that come in the midst of a potentially record-breaking year of extreme weather and current intense heat wave.
“When there’s a heat wave, people say it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. But with these cuts to our weather services, it’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity,” said Rep. Markey, the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee. “House Republicans are foolishly cutting funding for our nation’s weather and climate forecasters. That won’t change the climate or end a heat wave, but these budget cuts will lengthen the time it takes to alert our citizens about an incoming storm, or reduce our ability to give our nation’s farmers the information they need to manage their crops.”
Rep. Markey released a letter sent to him by NOAA in response to questions about extreme weather events, including tornadoes, and the budget cuts faced by the agency by House Republicans. The GOP members controlling NOAA’s purse strings have proposed a 17 percent cut to NOAA this year below the president’s request. The National Weather Service is run by NOAA.
That letter is available HERE . The original letter sent to NOAA by Rep. Markey is available HERE .
In the response, NOAA explains that this kind of cut would have negative economic effects since it would make them unable to modernize and maintain the current level of weather information, saying “The degradation in forecast accuracy would have a large impact on the U.S. economy. Although the benefit of public weather forecasts and warnings cannot be fully measured in economic terms alone, a recent survey has nevertheless estimated its annualized value at about $31.5 billion, compared to a $5.1 billion cost to generate the information.”
NOAA also explains that a reduction in funding could impact warning times given for tornadoes and other damaging events like flash floods. NOAA is currently working to transition from a “Warn-on-Detection” capability, where alerts could be sent on possible tornadoes only 10-25 minutes before possible touchdown, to a “Warn-on-Forecast” system that could increase lead times for citizens to 30-60 minutes.
“When a tornado or other deadly weather event is bearing down on you, minutes matter. Yet these kinds of vital capabilities don’t seem to matter to House Republicans, as long as it serves their greater goal of ending any research or discussion of climate change,” said Rep. Markey.
As NOAA notes in their letter, these services support a billion-dollar commercial weather industry, and the agency says that “a similar commercial climate industry will emerge in coordination with NOAA's climate services” researching climate change.
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