Going Blind: The Coming Satellite Crisis |
For many of us, inaccurate forecasts do little more than ruin a picnic or sully a recently washed car. We’re lucky. Weather is a sideshow to our daily lives. For others, though, advance knowledge of the weather directly affects their livelihoods, from farmers to construction workers to airline pilots. But there are times when weather affects us all, especially instances of severe weather like Hurricane Sandy. There, accurate forecasts can save lives, and those forecasts rely heavily on satellite data.
Unfortunately, in just a few years, part of our weather satellite system that is vital to forecasts will very likely go blind.
Berrien Moore, director of the National Weather Center, and many other experts who spoke with me cite Sandy as a prime example of how vital satellite data has become in weather forecasting and how terrible it would be if we lost any part of it. Typically, hurricanes that make their way up the East Coast end up veering back out to sea. But Sandy didn’t, and thanks to a European weather model that deeply incorporated satellite data, forecasters were able to predict its sudden turn west into the coast. continue reading