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Budget eliminates NASA and NOAA Earthsat Monitoring

Budget eliminates NASA and NOAA Earthsat Monitoring

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Fri 21 Apr 2017, 12:02:31

Is This Twilight for the Golden Age of Earth Observation?

By Peter Fairley
Posted 9 Mar 2017 | 15:06 GMT

When leaders of the Congressional committees that approve NASA’s missions and budgets put forth their priorities in February, only space science and deep space exploration made the cut. Conspicuously absent was Earth science—a US $2 billion function within NASA that tracks our rapidly changing “home planet.”

Add in White House skepticism of climate science, and what experts call today’s “golden age” of monitoring Earth via satellite faces some serious challenges.

That age began in 2009, when President Barack Obama responded to a U.S. National Research Council warning that budget cuts had left the United States’ Earth observing system “at risk of collapse.” NASA, the lead federal agency for satellite development, saw its Earth science budget rise 56 percent between 2008 and 2016, and it placed eight new Earth-observing satellites in orbit during that period packing state-of-the-art sensors.

The data they deliver inform a widening range of activities—crop planning and management, wildfire risk assessment, extreme air pollution warnings, and more. NASA delivered 1.42 billion data products in 2015—174 times as many as it delivered in 2000—according to a November 2016 review by the agency’s Inspector General.

More missions are in the pipeline, such as NASA’s second Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat-2), whose primary objectives are tracking melting polar ice sheets and glaciers and quantifying the carbon locked up in the globe’s forests.

ICESat-2, however, exemplifies both the present strength of the U.S. Earth observation program and a less visible weakness. To understand why, you need a sense of the ambitious nature of ICESat-2’s mission.

Rather than rerunning the first ICESat mission, which ended in 2009, NASA redesigned the laser altimeter to boost its impact. One laser beam firing sporadically became six beams firing 365 days a year; higher-precision digital photon counting replaced analog detection of beams bouncing back from Earth.

ICESat-2 should enable measurement of annual elevation changes in ice sheets at ± 4-millimeter accuracy (and better for other targets), and at 17 times the spatial resolution of its predecessor, according to Thorsten Markus, chief of cryospheric sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Maryland. Such data, he says, will elucidate some basic physical processes that elude climate models, and thus improve their predictions.

But pushing for the best has not come cheap. Instead of $300 million for an ICESat rerun, NASA’s estimate for ICESat-2’s development started at $559 million and has grown to $764 million. Including operations for up to seven years, the mission could cost nearly $1.1 billion, according to that November Inspector General report. Launch dates, meanwhile, have slipped from 2015 to 2018.

Delays and cost creep in ICESat-2 and other missions, as well as several failed launches, put a significant tarnish on Earth observation’s golden age. Extending existing missions to avoid gaps in observational data creates risk, according to NASA’s Inspector General: “More than half the Agency’s 16 operating missions have surpassed their designed lifespan and are increasingly prone to failures that could result in critical data loss….”

Similar risks confront the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a key partner in climate and weather observation, according to a February report by Congress’s watchdog agency the Government Accountability Office NOAA’s polar readings currently come from a dying NASA demonstration mission. If it fails before the agencies’ long-awaited Joint Polar Satellite System launches, it would degrade weather forecasts, “exposing the nation to a 15 percent chance of missing an extreme weather event forecast,” writes the GAO.

If the golden age of Earth observation harbored weak spots before the 2016 election, experts say the new administration introduces new risks. One is the $54 billion in belt-tightening proposed for federal agencies by President Donald Trump. In early March the Washington Post reported that the President will ask for 17 percent less funding for NOAA.

Another is potential interference with climate science. In February, Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, called for “rebalancing” of NASA’s portfolio. A former chairman, Robert Walker, now a lobbyist for space-related industries, built a similar plank into the space platform that he drafted for Trump’s campaign. Both men question human-induced climate change—a view held by many Republicans in Congress and Trump appointees.

Walker says expanded Earth observation under Obama came at the expense of other science programs, particularly deep space robotic missions. He also alleges that NASA science was “tainted" by a political agenda against fossil fuels, focusing on impacts from burning coal, oil, and natural gas and neglecting natural climate influences such as volcanic eruptions. “There’s an extremely complex system that involves a lot more than CO2,” he says.

...


Remainder of article is at: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/policy/is-this-twilight-for-the-golden-age-of-earth-observation
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Re: Budget eliminates NASA and NOAA Earthsat Monitoring

Unread postby onlooker » Fri 21 Apr 2017, 12:46:44

Is the US govt. resigning itself to environmental collapse or wanting to avoid mass panic or both?
“"If you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while counting your money"”
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Re: Budget eliminates NASA and NOAA Earthsat Monitoring

Unread postby Tanada » Fri 21 Apr 2017, 13:14:11

Changing the focus of NASA from space to Earth Observation was a crime in the first place. I for one am thrilled to see this travesty brought to a screeching halt.

If they had added Earth Observation to NASA's duties AND added the funding to properly do it while still doing the space exploration work i wouldn't have had a problem with it. However that is not what happened, the President ordered NASA to take its funding for the last 8 years and redirect it away from the core mission and into Earth Observations instead, despite the fact we already have NOAA and the NWS already doing the exact same work.

Like I said, it was a travesty that should have never happened in the first place.
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Re: Budget eliminates NASA and NOAA Earthsat Monitoring

Unread postby Plantagenet » Fri 21 Apr 2017, 14:43:22

Trump's budget is actually irrelevant. Its up to Congress to write the budget---not Trump. I can't see all the Florida R congress critters and Texas R congress critters cutting NASA since its based in their states. Its possible the final federal budget will cut a few climate change people from the NASA/NOAA budget, but the satellites don't cost much to keep operating and they are too valuable to turn off---they'll keep generating data.

Its probably not the US satellites that are most at risk right now anyway---its the EU satellites. The EU also monitors climate change using satellites.

But who knows if there will even be an EU after the French elections.

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Re: Budget eliminates NASA and NOAA Earthsat Monitoring

Unread postby pstarr » Fri 21 Apr 2017, 15:01:28

I guess we don't need to track global greening anymore?

There is this sense/paradigm in the mainstream GW community that CO2 causes climate. Really dumb. Really stupid. One could just as easily say vegetation (the planets forests, grasslands, ocean algae, etc) cause climate. It's all really a complex loop of bio-feedback, positive and negative forcings, emmissions/absorptions and chemical conversion. It will never be modeled. Just as the brain will never be modeled.

It's sad that ecology is never ever taught to Americans. We are out of touch with the real world.
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Re: Budget eliminates NASA and NOAA Earthsat Monitoring

Unread postby jedrider » Fri 21 Apr 2017, 15:20:25

I lick my thumb and stick it in the air. I don't need NASA or NOAA. Maybe, Congress has a point, but they're still deniers, though.
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Re: Budget eliminates NASA and NOAA Earthsat Monitoring

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Fri 21 Apr 2017, 16:01:57

I happen to think that it is a tragedy that government funding for Science is altered by politics, because it makes for bad Science. The Obama administration would not fund anything that did not affirm AGW, and the Trump administration will not fund anything that confirms it. Niether attitude is objective which is a basic requirement for valid scientific conclusions.

The question of whether mankind does or does not impact global climate in any significant manner remains open, and will remain open until we get objective observations and analysis. The IPCC and the AAAS both feature prominent statements about AGW in their enrollment web pages, and accept enrollments from anybody who pays the fee. Niether organization is objective about climate, niether can have valid conclusions because of basic editorial bias, as niether will publish any of the copious evidence disputing their pre-concieved position.

I'll have to say that a decision to throw less money down this particular rathole is a good decision. I want to see the funds applied where they were originally intended, for deep space missions and especially for manned missions.
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Re: Budget eliminates NASA and NOAA Earthsat Monitoring

Unread postby pstarr » Fri 21 Apr 2017, 16:27:29

"I'll have to say that a decision to throw less money down this particular rathole is a good decision. I want to see the funds applied where they were originally intended, for deep space missions and especially for manned missions."

KJ, how do you consider yourself a GW sceptic even an agnostic if you don't understand the planet earth. There are two ways: through a microscope (preferably electron) or a telescope. Reading and debating climate theory has proven to be an endless intellectual black-hole.

You guys go around and around and around with your fancy postulates, not seeing the forest for the trees.
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Re: Budget eliminates NASA and NOAA Earthsat Monitoring

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Fri 21 Apr 2017, 20:06:44

I didn't debate it, I said the question remains open. Which is entirely true, and will remain so as long as the very expensive Earthsats are under political control. Recall also that the two scientists who administer that data are named Roy Spencer and John Christy, both AGW skeptics, and that the Earthsat data shows no AGW, only natural climate trends. Since you are a supporter of the unproven AGW theory, I assumed you would not be disputing my assertion.
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