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White House proposes steep budget cut for climate science agency

NOAA imagery
This image shows the significant storm system that crossed North America that caused freezing and ice that resulted in dangerous conditions across the United States on January 15, 2017 resulting in loss of life.

The Trump administration has proposed a steep 17% budget cut for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The Washington Post reported late Friday, a move experts say could severely jeopardize weather forecasts and safety and security of Americans.

The Post, which obtained a “four-page budget” memo from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the proposal sought to end funding for programs such as coastal management and reduce research funding by $126 million, or 26% of its roughly $500-million research budget. NOAA’s satellite division — the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) — will see the biggest budget cut — $513 million, or 22% of its current funding. NESDIS monitors weather and collects climate data, and houses climate and environmental information through the National Centers for Environmental Information. NOAA satellites seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand cyclones and rising seas with about 90% of the information for weather forecasts coming from satellites.

Interestingly, it is the NESDIS researchers who published a study that suggested there had been no slowdown in the rate of climate change — a research that drew the ire of Republicans in Congress.

Captivating water vapor imagery from NOAA‘s GOES-16 satellite shows the intensification of the winter storm that brought heavy snow to Maine and other areas of the Northeast yesterday, February 13, 2017.

The details

The Office of Management and Budget has asked the Commerce Department to provide information on job cuts, besides estimating for terminating leases and government “property disposal.” The Commerce Department, of which NOAA is part of, would be hit by an overall 18% budget cut.

Another significant cut stares at the Sea Grant program, which currently supports university research programs at 33 institutions nationwide. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research faces a 26% cut, or $126 million while its satellite data division would faces 22% reduction, or $513 million. The Environmental Protective Agency’s funding would meanwhile be reduced by roughly 25% and about 3,000 jobs would be cut, about 19% of the agency’s staff.

While asking the Commerce Department to “buy and manage like a business,” the OMB urges the department to explore greater use of privately owned commercial satellites and commercial Cloud services.

Former chief operating officer of NOAA David Titley told The Washington Post: “These cuts will impact good private-sector jobs in the US. The loss of capability will make America weaker both in space and on the sea — a strange place to be for an administration that campaigned to ‘make America great again’. ”

“Cutting NOAA’s satellite budget will compromise NOAA’s mission of keeping Americans safe from extreme weather and providing forecasts that allow businesses and citizens to make smart plans,” said Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator under President Barack Obama.

NOAA’s research and operations support critical safety needs and a reduced budget virtually compromises warnings for tornadoes and hurricanes, navigational capacity for guiding commercial ships and mariners.

[ALSO WATCH: NOAA CHIEF SCIENTIST Dr. Richard W. Spinrad speaks on NOAA’s role]