Aging Weather Satellites Puts United States At Increasing Risk - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Aging Weather Satellites Puts United States At Increasing Risk

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By BRYAN LLANAS
FOX New York

Aging weather satellites provide data pivotal for hurricane tracking, blizzard snowfall amounts, and heat waves. The problem is that many are close to or have gone past their expiration dates, meaning satellites could collapse at any time, leaving us with an up to four year information void.

"The worst case scenario is going back 10 years in our capability to monitor and predict the weather, which means unfortunately greater chance of loss of life," says Antonio Busalacchi, a meteorologist.

Scientists are especially concerned after the satellite that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations operates, called GOES 13, malfunctioned for the second time in a year, most recently in May.

It's the main geostationary satellite that monitors the eastern seaboard.

The 7 year old system also malfunctioned for a brief time ahead of Superstorm Sandy.

GOES 13 is just one of twenty two aging NOAA and NASA satellites capable of failing.

Engineer Stacey Boland is part of a committee that monitors the current state of earth satellites, and warns that the government needs to act fast.

"We are definitely encountering a near perfect storm here, we have shrinking budgets, rising launch vehicle costs, 2 recent launch vehicle failures for earth science missions and when you put all of that together there is just no way to launch things at the rate it would take to replace the observations being lost," says Boland.

A replacement for one of two polar orbiting satellites, which provide the most complete forecasts, is not likely to be launched until at least 2017.

In a statement, NOAA tells FOX News,

"NOAA continues to develop mitigation plans for any potential gap in satellite coverage. These plans will be re-assessed on a biannual basis to account for new developments as they occur."

Some scientists estimate up to a trillion dollars of our economy relies on accurate forecast, from agriculture, transportation to the military.

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