1/24/11, "Aging and failed satellites jeopardize efforts to collect data on climate change," Washington Post, Emmarie Huetteman
"A 2005 report by the National Research Council sounded the alarm about the climate satellite system, declaring it was "at risk of collapse," largely because of weakening of U.S. financial support for such programs. The 2010 report by Lewis and others asserted that half of all climate satellites will have outlived their design life within the next eight years....
The Landsat series of Earth observation satellites, a nearly 40-year-old mission run by the U.S. Geological Survey, had its next satellite delayed from this year, with the latest plans estimating a 2012 launch. This mission watches rising sea levels, glacial movement and coral reef decline, and it charts environmental conditions for military and intelligence uses. But one of its two satellites is experiencing
- degraded image quality
- and the other has been up since 1984,
- far past its life expectancy.
The Hydros mission, to measure soil moisture and permafrost, and to improve forecasting of droughts and floods, which was to have been launched this month, was canceled altogether. The Obama administration has proposed a 2014 launch for a satellite to measure soil moisture....Last April, the Government Accountability Office issued a report that criticized NOAA and the Defense Department for failing to come up with plans to restore the climate-monitoring instruments and warned that there could be major gaps in data as a result.
NPOESS has still not launched any satellites, and
- only one of the older orbiters of the NOAA system
- is still circling the Earth.
The Obama administration recently re-split the program into its military and civilian parts in an effort to get it back on track....
Meanwhile, NASA must rely on limited aircraft surveillance to measure ice sheet thickness in the cryosphere - the Earth's surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, glaciers and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica -
- since its Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat)
- failed nearly a year ago.
A new version of that satellite, ICESat-2, is planned for launch in 2015, but until then NASA will be limited to three narrower flight-path views, observing only key regions where NASA knows it can't afford to go blind...."When you come right down to it, these are usually â€¦ policy decisions," said Kearns. "As scientists, we try to make these requirements and concerns known, and then we kind of hope for the best.""
"email@example.com Huetteman is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. This article is part of the "Global Warming" series, produced by Medill's National Security Reporting Project, on the national security implications of climate change."
via Climate Depot