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Spending Cuts to Delay Launch of New Weather Satellites

Weather satellites, which help warn the public of coming disasters like the tornado in Moore, Okla., will be delayed in launching because of budget cuts.


Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca M. Blank told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this year that the across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester could have a significant impact on the satellites that track tornadoes and hurricanes.

In a letter to Congress, Blank said that the next generation of what are called "geostationary weather satellites" will be delayed by two or three years instead of launching in 2015 and 2017.

"This delay could increase the risk of a gap in satellite coverage and diminish the quality of weather forecasts and warnings," she wrote.

The killer tornado in Moore touched down 16 minutes after the first warning, giving many residents time to find shelter.

The sequester also may mean four days of furloughs for meteorologists and other employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration between now and Sept. 30, when the federal fiscal year ends.

The nation's weather satellites were running into problems even before the sequester. Earlier this year, for example, the Government Accountability Office put the weather satellites on its list of troubled programs. Without data from the satellites, the GAO pointed out, forecasters would have predicted that Hurricane Sandy would stay at sea instead of slamming into New Jersey.


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