Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy & Space Based Earth Imaging

The obvious best "human" view of Hurricane Sandy, the growing storm which has just caused the mayor of New York City to order mandatory evacuations (as outlined in the October 28th, 2012 CBC News article "Hurricane Sandy prompts mass evacuation in New York City") is aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

But the best collectors of useful data on storms like Sandy are a series of crucial, but aging and unmanned weather satellites due for replacement over the next few years.

However, at least according to the October 26th, 2012 New York Times article "U.S. Satellite Plans Falter, Imperiling Data on Storms," their replacements may not come soon enough to prevent a "looming gap" in coverage. As outlined in the article, this:
...looming gap in satellite coverage, which some experts view as almost certain within the next few years, could result in shaky forecasts about storms like Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to hit the East Coast early next week.
The article blames rising costs for replacement satellites and poor project management for delays which have pushed back scheduled launch dates for replacements to a point where gaps in coverage are likely to occur.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES).

Just weeks ago, the September 28th, 2012 for New York article "Replacement Weather Satellite for GOES East" discussed the recent failure of the GOES-13 satellite, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its temporary replacement by the GOES-14 satellite, which occurred just in time to provide coverage of Hurricane Sandy.

While GOES-13 has since returned to service, its quite likely that more aging weather satellites will require replacement over the next few years.

Whether or not Hurricane Sandy ever turns into the "perfect storm" predicted by forecasters, lets hope the US gets it act together before any serious gaps in weather coverage occur.

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