Satellite shots by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are incredible, but who knows how long they’ll be on this Earth?
NOAA is yet another federal agency that President Donald Trump has targeted with funding cuts.
According to an Office of Management Budget memo obtained by The Washington Post, Trump hopes to slice NOAA’s funding by a whopping 17 percent. That would include cutting 22 percent ($513 million) from NOAA’s satellite date division, and axing another $216 million (26 percent) of funds from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. Some of the programs hit hard would be coastal management and developing ways to aid coasts in dealing with rising sea levels.
In an indication of how draconian the cuts could be, the memo inquires about ending leases on facilities and “property disposal.” As rationale for the cuts, the memo said the administration wants to “prioritize rebuilding the military.”
NOAA’s detailed, up-to-the-minute weather feedback from its satellites is absolutely vital for preparation for extreme weather events. In January NOAA and NASA released the first high-definition photos from the GOES-16 satellite. The GOES-16 was the first of four planned weather satellites intended to provide images of the entire Earth from a geostationary orbit roughly 22,300 miles above the equator. It’s unclear if that plan will survive the planned funding cuts.
Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator under Barack Obama, said that 90 percent of the information for weather forecasts comes from satellites. “Cutting NOAA’s satellite budget will compromise NOAA’s mission of keeping Americans safe from extreme weather,” she told The Washington Post.
The Trump administration has signaled that it also wants NASA to abandon any focus on Earth and a continued investigation of climate change — and stick to space.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said at a hearing last month that he wants a “rebalancing” of NASA’s mission to allow other agencies to take over its climate change research. But if NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency are gutted, it’s unclear which agencies could pick up the slack.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misidentified the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.