On Sept. 2, 1859, a powerful solar storm of highly charged particles overwhelmed the Earth’s protective magnetic field, shorting out telegraph wires and igniting fires across the United States and Europe.
Aware of the havoc that a similar event could cause on a planet increasingly dependent on satellites and electronics, the U.S. government is looking to better predict, protect against and recover from future solar storms.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has concluded that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have made “sufficient progress” in mitigating potential gaps in weather data that would have resulted “in less accurate and timely weather forecasts and warnings of extreme events—such as hurricanes and floods.”
Last week, we took a look at the significant increase in NASA’s budget for FY 2019. In this story, we will examine the budget increases for the Commerce Department — which manages the nation’s weather satellites — and the Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial launches. We will also take a look how the White House’s National Space Council fared.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA’s satellite programs received $1,45 billion, which is an increase of $55 million over FY 2018. The bulk of the funding is designated for the GOES-R, Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow-on (PFO) programs. The amounts include:
NASA has received a $21.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, which is $736.86 million above FY 2018 and $1.6 billion above the total requested by the Trump Administration.
The funding, which came more than four months into the fiscal year, was included in an appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. NASA’s budget has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years. In FY 2018, the space agency received an $1.64 billion increase over the previous year.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.83 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. Globally, 2018’s temperatures rank behind those of 2016, 2017 and 2015. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Climate experts from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will provide the annual release of global temperatures data and discuss the most important climate trends of 2018 during a media teleconference at 11:30 a.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 6.
The teleconference participants are:
Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York
Deke Arndt, chief of the global monitoring branch of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina
Audio of the briefing, as well as supporting graphics, will stream live at:
STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Jan. 4, 2019 (AccuWeather PR) — AccuWeather, the world’s largest and fastest growing weather media company as well as the leader in weather-related big data, business and predictive analytics, today announced that Chief Executive Officer Barry Lee Myers has stepped down as officer and director from AccuWeather and has sold all of his interest in the company and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, effective January 1, 2019.
Myers is one of the world’s leading authorities on the business of weather, and on the use and distribution of weather-related and similar information, and has been an integral part and a leading force on AccuWeather’s executive management team for decades. He was nominated by President Trump to become the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Myers was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee after a public hearing and his nomination was forwarded to the full Senate for confirmation. His nomination, along with hundreds of others, did not receive Senate confirmation before the expiration of the 115th Congress and will require re-nomination by the President to advance in the 116th Congress.
President Donald Trump’s nominee to head NOAA remains in limbo as the current Congress prepares to go out of business this month and the administration approaches its second year in January, The New York Times reports.
Barry Lee Myers, the chief executive of AccuWeather, a private forecasting firm that relies largely on data from the agency’s National Weather Service, has been a controversial figure since President Trump first nominated him to lead the agency in October 2017. Democrats have said that Mr. Myers has significant conflicts of interest, including his past eagerness to privatize the National Weather Service. For several years, Mr. Myers fought government programs that would compete with AccuWeather services….
Under Senate rules, any nomination not approved or rejected during one session of Congress must be resubmitted by the president unless the Senate unanimously agrees to waive the rule. It’s unclear whether Mr. Trump will put Mr. Myers’s name forward a third time. An attorney for AccuWeather who has been representing Mr. Myers, Tom Fahy, referred questions to the White House, which did not respond to requests for comment.
In addition to predicting the weather, the agency is charged with monitoring oceans, helping coastal communities protect themselves from storms and managing fisheries. The agency is also responsible for launching and maintaining satellites that provide data for climate trends and weather forecasts for severe events like hurricanes.
Scientists said the administration’s failure to install permanent leaders in top positions underscored its disinterest in science.
The second volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment released last week forecasts a future full of wrath of God type events right out of the Bible. [Download report at nca2018.globalchange.gov]
In the decades ahead, the United States will experience: rising sea levels swamping coastal areas; severe droughts that will threaten vital food supplies; killer heat waves that will leave thousands dead annually; an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires like the ones seen in California this year; stronger hurricanes and other storms causing severe damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure; an increased number of power outages as an aging power grid struggles under the heat; and the migration of tropical diseases northward.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have appointed a board to investigate an instrument anomaly aboard the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) 17 weather satellite currently in orbit.
WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NESDIS has awarded contracts to three satellite companies as part of the Commercial Weather Data Pilot (CWDP) Round Two.
Awardees Spire, GeoOptics, and PlanetIQ will each provide space-based radio occultation data to NOAA for the purpose of demonstrating data quality and potential value to NOAA’s weather forecasts and warnings.
WASHINGTON, DC – June 14, 2018 (Senate Appropriations Committee PR) — The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the FY2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act with funding for programs that support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities….
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – $21.3 billion for NASA, $587 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $1.43 billion above the budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, to fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and to support fundamental aeronautics research.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (NASA PR) — Off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island and more than 3,000 feet beneath the ocean surface lie the warm, bubbling springs of a volcano — a deep-sea location that may hold lessons for the search for extraterrestrial life.
Excessive cost growth, technical issues and poor contractor performance were the key factors that caused NASA to cancel a scientific instrument that had been set to fly aboard NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System 2 (JPSS-2), according to an assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
NOAA has issued a request for proposals for the second phase of its commercial weather data pilot program.
The program’s goal is to determine whether GPS radio occultation data from commercial satellites can be used to improve weather forecasting. Radio occultation involves the change in a radio signal as it passes through Earth’s atmosphere, allowing for the measurement of physical properties there.
The firm-fixed price contracts for the second phase will run from Aug. 27, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2019. The data collection and delivery period will run from Oct. 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.
Companies are required to provide at least two periods of at least three consecutive months of radio occultation data during the collection period. A minimum of 500 atmospheric soundings per day are required. Data must be delivered to NOAA at least once per week.
NASA issued contracts to GeoOptics and Spire for the first phase of the pilot program in September 2016. Space Newsreports the program did not go very smoothly, but that NOAA officials had learned a number of key lessons from it that are being included in the second phase.
GeoOptics’ contract was terminated when the company was unable to provide data because of delays in the launch of its first satellites.
While Spire did provide data, NOAA officials said later that the quality of the data fell short of expectations. “We have gone through one contract already with the radio occultation community, and we found that the data aren’t accurate enough or comprehensive enough yet to meet our observing requirements,” Stephen Volz, NOAA assistant administrator for satellite and information services, said in January. Spire said that the data from its constellation of cubesats has improved significantly since the end of that initial round of the pilot program in April 2017.
NOAA officials have said for several months that they are working on a report analyzing the results of that first round of the Commercial Weather Data Pilot. However, NOAA spokesman John Leslie said May 7 that the report is still “nearing competition” within the agency and will be released publicly once it is completed.