USA, 14 May 2007: Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Nick Lampson has asked the administrators of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for answers regarding a research satellite QuikSCAT which is aimed at helping hurricane forecasters sharpen their predictions about the paths which the massive storms will follow.
The QuikSCAT satellite is basically designed to track wind data at the ocean surface under a NASA mission to fill the gap created by the loss of data from the NASA Scatterometer (NSCAT) which produced data that NOAA found valuable for improving predictions on the movement of hurricanes and the point of landfall. The SeaWinds instrument on the QuikSCAT satellite is a microwave radar that measures near-surface wind speed and direction under all weather and cloud conditions over Earth’s oceans.
The Director of the Hurricane Center recently stated that loss of QuikSCAT data without a replacement mechanism in place, will reduce the accuracy of their two day predictions by 10 percent and 16 percent for three-day forecasts. QuikSCAT is currently two years beyond its five-year design lifetime and there is no near-term plan to replace the satellite’s severe weather prediction capabilities.
A reduction in the accuracy of such forecasts will require the National Hurricane Center to expand the coastal areas receiving hurricanes watches and warnings and increase the number of persons affected by evacuation orders, wrote Chairman Lampson.
Chairman Lampson has asked to see NOAA’s contingency planning to deal with possible shutdown of QuikSCAT satellite, particularly if the satellite fails during hurricane season.
When evacuations are ordered in an effort to save lives, they should be done with the best available data, continued Lampson. “We can only accomplish that with accurate forecasting. Please provide us with information about the short-term options for continuing to obtain the information provided by the QuikSCAT satellite should the loss of this satellite occur during hurricane season,” added Lampson in his letter to the Administrators.