Keeping Satellites Up to Snuff (Rep. Ron Klein)

Hurricane season is less than two months away. My district in Florida contains 70 miles of coastline. Therefore, hurricane preparedness is something we take very seriously. That is why I became very concerned when I learned of recent reports that a satellite important to forecasting hurricanes, the QuikSCAT satellite, is in danger of going off line in the near future.

Last week, I spoke with General David Johnson, who serves as the Director of the National Weather Service and the NOAA Assistant Administrator for Weather Services. General Johnson confirmed newspaper reports that the QuikSCAT satellite currently in orbit is at risk of deteriorating, and that this particular satellite provides crucial data that increases the accuracy of hurricane forecasting.

I told General Johnson that addressing this problem is a top priority of mine, and I am committed to doing whatever it takes to get the federal funds needed to increase hurricane predictability. We cannot afford to take any steps backward. I am disappointed that this problem is only now being addressed.
Yesterday, I sent a letter to the Director of Policy and Integration for the Air Force Reserves to request a meeting to discuss the status of Hurricane Hunter planes, and if they are capable of forecasting hurricanes in the event the QuikSCAT satellite fails. Hurricane Hunter aircraft are administered by the U.S. Air Force Reserves, and they fly directly into and around the path of hurricanes to gather important data that helps forecasters make accurate predictions during a hurricane. These planes also increase the understanding of the storm processes, thereby improving their forecast models.

While Hurricane Hunter aircraft are not intended to replace the long-term benefits of the QuikSCAT satellite, I want to make sure the role, capability, and readiness of the aircraft are able to sufficiently track storms during the upcoming hurricane season, which is less than two months away.

I am committed to getting to the bottom of this issue. I will continue to ask why this problem was not anticipated at an earlier date, and why we are just learning of this problem now. Given that half of all Americans live within 50 miles of the coastline, this is an issue we must address immediately.