Tag Archives: weather data

Trump signs commercial weather satellite bill

Capitalism in space: President Trump today signed the new law that strongly encourages NOAA to begin using privately acquired weather data.

Among the bill’s provisions is language formally authorizing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to purchase weather data from commercial satellite systems. The bill authorizes NOAA to spend $6 million a year in fiscal years 2017 through 2020 for a pilot program of data purchases to evaluate the effectiveness of commercial data to support weather forecasting.

NOAA has already started such a pilot program using $3 million appropriated to the agency in fiscal year 2016. In September 2016, NOAA awarded contracts to GeoOptics and Spire, with a combined value of a little more than $1 million, for GPS radio occultation data.

These are only baby steps. At this time NOAA’s bureaucracy views commercial space the same way that NASA did back in 2004: it is a threat and also incapable of doing the job. Since NOAA today, like NASA in 2004, has been unable to do the job very well itself, its ability to argue against private space is limited. Expect the pressure to build for NOAA to hand over more and more of its weather-gathering work to private companies.

Share

NOAA head poo-poos private weather companies

At a congressional hearing on Wednesday the head of NOAA expressed serious doubts about the ability of private companies to provide worthwhile weather data.

At a hearing of the environment subcommittee of the House Science Committee on NOAA’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said it was still too soon to determine if commercial sources of weather data, most notably GPS radio occultation systems, could augment or replace existing data sources. “In the weather domain, we believe it is a promising but still quite nascent prospect to actually have data flows from private sector satellites,” Sullivan said. “There have been a number of claims, there’s some hardware in orbit from at least one company that I’m aware of, but really nothing proven to the level that we require for ingesting something into the National Weather Service.”

This so much reminds me of past NASA administrators who repeatedly told us that private companies really couldn’t do the job of supplying ISS or launching humans into space, and that we really needed to leave that job to the government, which really knew better.

As it turns out, those past NASA administrators were wrong. Not only has private space done a very effective job at supplying ISS, they made it happen fast for relatively little money. And they are about to do the same in launching humans into space as well. NASA meanwhile has been twiddling its thumbs for decades in its efforts to replace the space shuttle while spending ungodly amounts of money and accomplishing little with it.

I have no doubt the same will be true with the weather. Allow private companies to compete for profits in providing the world with good weather data, and they will quickly do a far better job than NOAA. And the data will likely not be tampered with for political ends by global warming advocates in the government!

Share