Tag Archives: NOAA

NOAA awards three more experimental commercial weather contracts

Capitalism in space: NOAA this week awarded three commercial companies contracts to provide the agency weather data in its expanding effort to get this data not from government satellites but from private sources.

In the Sept. 17 announcement, NOAA said it was issuing contracts to GeoOptics, PlanetIQ and Spire to provide GPS radio occultation weather data from satellites currently in orbit or planned for launch in the coming months. That technique measures the refraction of GPS signals as they pass through the atmosphere and are received by the companies’ satellites, which can provide temperature and pressure profiles to support weather forecasting models.

The awards represent round two of NOAA’s Commercial Weather Data Pilot program, an effort by the agency to experiment with buying data from commercial providers to determine its usefulness, as well as to examine various technical and programmatic issues with such data buys.

NOAA’s management bureaucracy has resisted this transition to private enterprise, much as NASA’s bureaucracy has. Nonetheless, NOAA’s inability to built and launch weather satellites at a reasonable cost and in a practical timeframe is forcing it to change.

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House committee approves new space weather bill

The House Science Committee yesterday approved new space weather bill that would shift responsibility for coordinating the government’s space weather observation capabilities to the National Space Council, while also creating a pilot commercial program for launch weather satellites.

It appears there was some heavy political maneuvering involved with this bill, as there was a late switch of language that changed its focus.

The new text has a strong focus on the private sector. In the policy section, for example, it explicitly states that “space weather observation and forecasting are not exclusive functions of the Federal Government” and the government “should, as practicable, obtain space weather data and services through contracts with the commercial sector, when the data and services are available, cost-effective, and add value.” The bill requires the Secretary of Commerce to establish a pilot program for obtaining space weather data from the private sector that appears analogous to NOAA’s commercial weather data pilot program.

The Senate will still have to review and approve this new bill.

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NOAA still struggling to get GOES 17 working

NOAA is still struggling to pinpoint and correct the problem in GOES 17, launched in March, that prevents it from taking certain infrared weather images.

In a teleconference with reporters, NOAA officials said they had been able to improve the availability of infrared and near-infrared channels on the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument on the GOES-17 satellite since the agency first reported the problem two months ago. The spacecraft, originally known as GOES-S, launched in March. “ABI is already demonstrating improved performance from what was initially observed,” said Pam Sullivan, director of the GOES-R system program. Currently, 13 of the instrument’s 16 channels are available 24 hours a day, with the other three able to operate at least 20 hours a day.

That will change, though, on a seasonal basis, depending on the amount of sunlight that shines into the instrument. By September, the hottest part of the orbit, only 10 of 16 channels will be available 24 hours a day, she said, with the other six available “most of the day.”

The satellite is second satellite launched out of a four satellite constellation that NOAA is building for $11 billion. They have now also admitted that the same problem exists on the first satellite, but does not seem to be effecting performance in the same way.

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Trump administration to remove climate change from NOAA’s priorities

According to one interpretation of a presentation by the Acting head of the Department of Commerce, the Trump administration to going to remove climate change from NOAA’s priorities.

Because of its work on climate science data collection and analysis, [NOAA] has become one of the most important American agencies for making sense of the warming planet. But that focus may shift, according to a slide presentation at a Department of Commerce meeting by Tim Gallaudet, the acting head of the agency.

In the presentation, which included descriptions of the past and present missions for the agency, the past mission listed three items, starting with “to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts.” In contrast, for the present mission, the word “climate” was gone, and the first line was replaced with “to observe, understand and predict atmospheric and ocean conditions.”

The presentation also included a new emphasis: “To protect lives and property, empower the economy, and support homeland and national security.”

The job of NOAA, if it should have any job at all, should always have been to make observations and collect data. The interpretation and predictions should be left to others. By inserting the issue of climate change into its core priorities the agency’s work was almost guaranteed to become distorted and corrupted by politics. And that is exactly what we have seen.

Expect this change to cause more howls from the left. Expect even more howls when this change forces the Trump administration to start to take a close look at NOAA’s data — something they have not yet done — and discovers the amount of unjustified tampering to it, all aimed at proving the existence of global warming.

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Trump replaces Obama’s oceans policy

President Trump yesterday issued an executive order replacing the oceans policy Obama had established with a policy that emphasizes “…the economy, security, global competitiveness, and well-being of the United States.”

The full executive order is here. The Science article at the link above not surprisingly provides quotes from a number of Trump opponents, including the head of NOAA during Obama’s administration, to express their opposition to this change.

One author of the Obama oceans policy is disappointed. The Trump policy “represents a significant step backward, a throwback to the 1960s when the primary focus was on aggressively expanding the use of the ocean with the assumption that it is so immense, so bountiful that it must be inexhaustible,” marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco, who led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under Obama, tells ScienceInsider. “We learned through painful experience that the ocean is indeed exhaustible, but we also learned that if we are smart about how we use the ocean, it can provide a wealth of benefits for decades and decades.”

Obama’s policy had emphasized “stewardship,” she notes—a word not used in the new order. Trump “blatantly rejects this all-important focus on stewardship,” Lubchenco says. “Put another way, the policy reflects a shift from ‘use it without using it up’ to a very short-sighted and cavalier ‘use it aggressively and irresponsibly.’”

Lubchenco is significantly overstating the negatives of Trump’s new policy. Its language is hardly “aggressive” or “irresponsible.” It does shift the focus from restricting the use of the oceans by regulation to encouraging their use for the “economic, security, and environmental benefits for present and future generations of Americans.” It that context the policy recognizes that “clean, healthy waters” are essential to provide those benefits.

I suspect that little will really change with this order. It will take years, if ever, to get the federal bureaucracy to shift its culture from controlling what Americans do to working with them. Nonetheless, this order demonstrates that Trump, unlike the past two Republican presidents, is serious about shifting federal policy in a conservative and less intrusive direction. The Bushes mouthed conservative ideas, but did little to stop the over-regulation imposed by the federal government. Bush Jr was especially worthless, as he did practically nothing to overturn the regulations that Clinton imposed, and in many ways supplemented or encouraged more regulation.

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White House issues new policy statement to reduce space regulation

Don’t get too excited: President Trump yesterday signed a new policy statement that basically follows the recommendations of his National Space Council aimed at reducing regulation of space commerce.

One section of the policy addresses launch licensing, requiring the Secretary of Transportation, who oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, to “release a new regulatory system for managing launch and re-entry activity, targeting an industry that is undergoing incredible transformation with regulations that have failed to keep up,” according to a White House fact sheet.

A second section deals with commercial remote sensing regulatory reform. “The current regulatory system is woefully out of date and needs significant reform to ensure the United States remains the chosen jurisdiction for these high tech companies,” the fact sheet states.

A related section calls on the Secretary of Commerce to provide a plan to create a “one-stop shop” within his department “for administering and regulating commercial space flight activities.” The Commerce Department had previously announced plans to combine the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs office with the Office of Space Commerce, giving the latter office that regulatory role for issues other than launch and communications.

The policy directs several agencies, including Commerce, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Federal Communications Commission, to develop a plan for “improving global competitiveness” of policies, regulation and other activities dealing with the use of radiofrequency spectrum for space activities.

A final section of the policy directs the National Space Council to review export control regulations regarding commercial spaceflight activities and provide recommendations within 180 days.

The policy closely follows the recommendations from the February meeting of the National Space Council. However, White House officials, speaking on background, said they don’t expect immediate changes as a result of the policy since many of the changes, like changes to regulations, will take months to implement through standard rulemaking processes. Some changes, the officials acknowledge, will require legislation to enact, such as authority to license “non-traditional” commercial space activities. [emphasi mine]

The highlighted text illustrates this is really just public relations and lobbying to get new legislation through Congress. Without that, little will change.

This directive however does carry one certain action we should all celebrate. The changes at Commerce eliminate the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office, where bureaucrats earlier this year claimed they had the power to license all photography of any kind from space, a power that allowed them to block SpaceX from using cameras on their rocket when those cameras showed the Earth in the background.

At the time I said that “If Trump is serious about cutting back regulation, he should step it now to shut this down.” Apparently, he has done so.

As for the other proposed regulatory changes, there are bills weaving their way through the labyrinth of Congress to address these changes. The House bill repeats most of the recommended changes of this policy directive. We have not yet seen a Senate version.

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New NOAA weather satellite has serious problem

Can’t anybody here play this game? The cooling unit required to take infrared images in the new NOAA weather satellite GOES-17, launched in March, is not functioning properly.

“This is a serious problem,” Volz said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “This is the premier Earth-pointing instrument on the GOES platform, and 16 channels, of which 13 are infrared or near-infrared, are important elements of our observing requirements, and if they are not functioning fully, it is a loss. It is a performance issue we have to address.”

Detectors for the infrared channels must be cooled to around 60 Kelvin (minus 351 degrees Fahrenheit) to make them fully sensitive to infrared light coming from Earth’s atmosphere. For about 12 hours each day, the cooler inside the Advanced Baseline Imager, or ABI, is unable to chill the detectors to such cold temperatures, officials said.

Infrared images from weather satellites are used to monitor storms at night, when darkness renders visible imagery unavailable. The three visible channels from the ABI are not affected by the cooling problem.

“The other wavelengths, the near-infrared and infrared wavelengths — the other 13 — need to be cooled to some extent beyond the capability of the system at present,” said Tim Walsh, NOAA’s program manager for the GOES-R weather satellite series. “There’s a portion of the day centered around satellite local midnight where the data is not usable, and that’s what we’re addressing.”

GOES-17 is the second of a four satellite constellation being built by NOAA costing $11 billion.

It appears that an identical cooling system was installed on the first of this satellite constellation, GOES-16, and has been working perfectly in orbit since November 2016. Why the new unit isn’t working remains a puzzle.

The real issue here is the cost and complexity of these satellites. Because they are so complex and take so long to build, replacing them is difficult if not impossible. Wouldn’t it be better to launch many cheaper satellites to provide redundancy at a lower cost?

This is a pattern we see throughout the government aerospace industry. NASA’s Webb and WFIRST telescopes are big and take decades to build. God forbid they fail at launch. SLS and Orion are big and take decades to build. God forbid they fail at launch. The Air Force’s numerous military satellites are big and take decades to build. God forbid an enemy takes one out.

In all these cases, failure means we get nothing after spending a lot of time and money. And replacing the loss will take years and billions of dollars.

Common sense says it is time to rethink this entire operation. Unfortunately, this is the federal government. The concept of rethinking anything, or even thinking at all, is too often a completely alien concept. I do not expect anything to change, unless we elect new people in Congress and the Presidency who are willing to take a hammer to this whole insane system and smash it bluntly. Trump is kind of this type of new person, but even he isn’t willing to change that much, only some things, such as the EPA, that irk him in particular. Otherwise, he has left much of the federal bureaucracy alone — as can be seen by his administration and NASA both gearing up to fund both LOP-G and WFIRST— thus continuing this pattern of big and expensive projects that take forever to build.

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NOAA claims it is streamlining its remote sensing licensing operations

We’re here to help you! The NOAA office that recently demanded that it has the legal power to regulate all camera images from space announced this week that it has vastly streamlined its licensing process.

Really? Let’s take a look at their own numbers:

Samira Patel, an analyst with the Aerospace Corporation supporting CRSRA [Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs at NOAA], said that in 2015 the average review time for a license application was 210 days, with only 1 of 15 applications completed within the 120-day time limit established in federal law. In 2016, that decreased to an average of 140 days, with 5 of 12 applications reviewed within 120 days.

Last year, Patel said the office completed reviews of license applications on an average of 91 days. Only 2 of 16 applications took more than 120 days, she said, “and that was only by a few days.” [emphasis mine]

My heart be still. It now takes them only three months on average to get a permit approved. Imagine how fast they’ll do it when they have to approve every tourist image taken of Earth from the many proposed private space stations.

The article does note that the Trump administration is reviewing the entire permitting process for commercial space, and that this responsibility, as well as the FAA’s licensing responsibility, could soon be merged and moved to the Department of Commerce. I hope that, in the process of this rearrangement, they throw out this new power-grab. The government has no business licensing any image-taking by any private entity.

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NOAA admits it wants the power to license all camera use in space

Government power grab: At a conference today a NOAA official revealed that its lawyers have decided to liberally interpret federal law so that the agency has the power to license all camera use in space.

According to Tahara Dawkins, director of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) office,

[p]art of the licensing review for commercial remote sensing systems involves a check of any national security implications of that system, but it’s not clear what issues an onboard camera system, whose views of the Earth are typically low resolution and often obscured by the rocket itself, might pose.

Dawkins said that no previous SpaceX launches had NOAA commercial remote sensing licenses, even though many have flown onboard cameras, including several previous Iridium missions. An April 2 launch of a Falcon 9 from Florida carrying a Dragon cargo spacecraft had no such restrictions, she said, because that was considered a government mission. While the spacecraft is performing a mission under contract to NASA, the launch itself was considered commercial and licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

NOAA was not aware of the previous launches that featured onboard cameras. “Our office is extremely small, and there’s a lot of things out there that we miss,” she said. “The onus is on the companies to come to us and get a license when needed.” [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words prove that the big publicity of the Falcon Heavy launch, showing the Tesla with the Earth in the background, instigated this stupidity. This office doesn’t have the slightest idea what is going on. Footage from rocket launches have become routine now for almost a decade. They saw the Tesla images and decided to exert their power, despite the fact that, as the article notes,

Part of the licensing review for commercial remote sensing systems involves a check of any national security implications of that system, but it’s not clear what issues an onboard camera system, whose views of the Earth are typically low resolution and often obscured by the rocket itself, might pose.

This is government overreach at its worst. If Trump is serious about cutting back regulation, he should step it now to shut this down.

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NOAA bureaucracy shuts down SpaceX telecast because stupid

Government marches on! The NOAA bureaucracy forced SpaceX to shut down its launch telecast this morning because agency bureaucrats had decided that views of Earth in the background were the equivalent of a satellite remote sensing system that the agency is required to regulate.

It was definitely an issue with NOAA, the rocket company said. Apparently NOAA recently asserted that cameras on the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which SpaceX uses for engineering purposes, qualify as a remote sensing system, which are subject to NOAA’s regulation. A provisional license obtained by SpaceX for Friday’s launch of the Iridium-5 mission required it to end views once the second stage reached orbit.

This raises some questions about the real purpose behind NOAA’s action, as the regulation specifically exempts “small, hand-held cameras.” SpaceX intends to obtain a full license for such camera views, and as of now there is apparently no restriction in place for SpaceX’s next launch of a NASA cargo ship from Florida, happening as early as Monday.

One theory put forth is that some bureaucrats at NOAA might not have liked the good press that SpaceX got when it broadcast views of the Tesla in space, launched by the Falcon Heavy, and wanted to exert their petty power. This might not be true. What is true is that this interference by NOAA in SpaceX operations is beyond stupid.

But then, why should be expect anything different from our present federal government?

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NOAA declares record-setting warming where it has no data

NOAA’s September update on the climate has declared that central and southern Africa experienced “record warmth,” even though NOAA itself admits it has no ground data for this region, and the satellite data shows temperatures normal.

Except for the satellite data, which comes from a different research source, all the graphs at the second link are from NOAA itself. Despite admitting in one graph that they have zero data for most of Africa, they declare in a different graph that most of Africa experienced record-setting warming.

This is not the first time NOAA has done this. I noted similar intellectual dishonesty by NOAA two years ago. In the interim they have followed this pattern repeatedly, claiming new warming records all over the globe in many areas where they have absolutely no surface data and the satellite data remains inconclusive.

There is an intellectual corruption in the climate field, especially within government agencies like NOAA, that is ruining our ability to really learn what is going on with the climate. And until someone in power steps in and either demands a forthright explanation that justifies these actions (something that I think is impossible) or demands that it stop, this corruption is only going to get worse.

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Trump appoints private sector businessman to head NOAA

President Trump today nominated Barry Myers, the head of the private company AccuWeather, to be chief of NOAA.

This pick will likely accelerate the shift at NOAA from government-built weather satellites to buying the product from the private sector, a shift that NOAA has strongly resisted so far. The article above illustrates that resistance, as it immediately gives space to the naysayers.

But some scientists worry that Myers’ ties to AccuWeather could present conflicts of interest, and note that Myers has no direct experience with the agency’s broader research portfolio, which includes the climate, oceans and fisheries. “I think the science community has real cause for concern,” says Andrew Rosenberg, head of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Rosenberg notes that Myers was an early proponent of carving out a larger role for the private sector in providing weather services. And in 2005, while Myers served as executive vice president and general counsel, AccuWeather lobbied for legislation to prevent the National Weather Service from competing with private firms in providing products including basic weather forecasting. “Is he going to recuse himself from decisions which might potentially be of interest to his company down the road?” asks Rosenberg.

I am not surprised that the Union of Concerned Scientists opposes this shift. They have been a big government, centralized-control advocate for decades. The simple fact is, however, that a lot of money is made predicting the weather. There is no reason the government should be paying for these satellites and providing this service free. If the government didn’t do it, the private weather companies like AccuWeather and the Weather Channel would quickly take over, because — like television networks and communications companies — they need the satellites for their businesses.

Would the data be as available for scientists doing climate research? Maybe in the beginning the private companies would be reluctant to release what to them is proprietary data. As more competing companies got their satellites launched, however, the competition would force them all to make their data available for research, and researchers would end up with more data, not less.

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House appropriations approves NASA and NOAA budgets

The squealing of pigs: The House appropriations committee yesterday approved the budgets for both NASA and NOAA, essentially accepting the budget numbers approved by its subcommittee.

Overall, the House increased spending over the Trump administration’s proposed cuts. Only in the area of climate did the legislators appear to support those cuts, and even here they pumped more money in.

The Trump Administration proposed a deep cut to [NOAA’s Polar Follow-On mission] saying it will re-plan the program ($180 million instead of the $586 million NOAA said last year it would need for FY2018). The committee went even further, approving only $50 million, but added it would reconsider if NOAA provides a better explanation of how it is restructuring the program. NOAA’s plans for new space weather satellites also fell far short of what the agency planned last year, although the committee provided more ($8.5 million) than the Trump Administration requested ($500,000).

In general, do not expect this Republican Congress to gain any control over the federal deficit. They are as spendthrift as Democrats. The only difference is their choice of programs.

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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.

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Cuts to NOAA, EPA, and the environmental bureaucracy

Two articles today outline some of the proposed cuts the Trump administration is considering for the EPA and NOAA and their generally bloated and politicized administrative bureaucracies.

The first article focuses on the proposed cuts to the EPA, which would reduce the overall budget to that agency by about 25%.

The Trump administration wants to cut spending by EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) by more than 40% from roughly $510 million to $290 million, according to sources that have seen preliminary directives from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The cuts target scientific work in fields including climate change, air and water quality, and chemical safety. EPA’s $50 million external grant program for environmental scientists at universities would disappear altogether. Such erasures represent just part of a larger plan to shrink EPA’s budget by 25% to $6.1 billion, and cut its workforce by 20% to 12,400 employees, in the 2018 fiscal year that begins 1 October.

The second article focuses on proposed cuts aimed at NOAA and within the Commerce Department, with cuts in specific departments ranging from 5% to 26%, with an overall cut to NOAA of 17%.
» Read more

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The tampering of climate data at NOAA and NASA

data tampering at NASA

Last week there was the another Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. One presentation there by several important climate skeptics outlined in detail the data tampering that has been going on at an increasingly outrageous manner at both NOAA and NASA in recent years. The slides presented by Tony Heller (available here [pdf]), many of which I have highlighted previously here at Behind the Black, are especially educational and damning.

To the right is just one of Heller’s slides, the one that I find the most damning of all. It shows how the surface data issued by NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), the two green lines, does not match the satellite data at all. While the satellite data shows no warming this entire century, the GISS data shows steady rising in the surface data. Other slides by Heller show that this rise comes solely from data adjustments and the extrapolation of imagined temperature data in places where no data exists, neither of which has been explained in any manner by the scientists at GISS.

What is most damning however is the change Heller documents between GISS’s November 2016 and December 2016 data sets. For reasons that are simply unjustified by any scientific measure, GISS somehow found it necessary to adjust its entire data set upward in one month about 0.03 of a degree. The only reason I can find for such a change in such a short period of time is a desire by the scientists at GISS to create the illusion that the climate is warming, and warming fast. They don’t have any real data to show this, so they make it up.

Make sure you look at all of Heller’s slides [pdf]. It is also definitely worthwhile to spend the time to watch the entire CPAC presentation, available at the first link above.

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Whistleblower exposes climate data manipulation at NOAA

The corruption of climate science: A retired award-winning climate scientist has revealed that the publication of a NOAA paper that claimed the pause in global warming since 1998 did not exist was rushed into publication so that it would appear just prior to the Paris climate conference in 2015.

Worse, the paper’s authors disregarded NOAA’s rules for peer review, destroyed their raw data so that no one could check their results, and purposely threw out data that raised questions about their conclusions.

NOAA’s 2015 ‘Pausebuster’ paper was based on two new temperature sets of data – one containing measurements of temperatures at the planet’s surface on land, the other at the surface of the seas. Both datasets were flawed. This newspaper has learnt that NOAA has now decided that the sea dataset will have to be replaced and substantially revised just 18 months after it was issued, because it used unreliable methods which overstated the speed of warming. The revised data will show both lower temperatures and a slower rate in the recent warming trend.

The land temperature dataset used by the study was afflicted by devastating bugs in its software that rendered its findings ‘unstable’. The paper relied on a preliminary, ‘alpha’ version of the data which was never approved or verified. A final, approved version has still not been issued.

None of the data on which the paper was based was properly ‘archived’ – a mandatory requirement meant to ensure that raw data and the software used to process it is accessible to other scientists, so they can verify NOAA results.

Read the whole article. It is remarkably detailed for a modern newspaper story, delving carefully into the kind of details that must be looked at to truly understand the corruption of science that has taken place in government agencies like NOAA and NASA.

Does this story prove that human-caused global warming is not happening? Of course not. What it does show is that there is fraud going on, and that much of the science press releases issued by these agencies cannot be trusted.

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The private weather industry moves forward

Link here. Key quote:

Early next month, aerospace start-up Spire Global of Glasgow, UK, will send a mini-satellite into space aboard an Indian government rocket. This ‘cubesat’ will join 16 others that are beaming a new type of atmospheric data back to Earth — and some scientists worry that such efforts are siphoning funding away from efforts to push forward the science of weather forecasting. Spire will begin providing observations to the US government on 30 April.

The probes track delays in radio signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites as they pass through the atmosphere — a technique known as radio occultation. Researchers can use the data to create precise temperature profiles of the atmosphere to feed into weather-forecasting models — and eventually, perhaps, climate models.

Spire and its competitor GeoOptics of Pasadena, California, are participating in a pilot project announced in September by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is under pressure from the US Congress to determine whether it can cut costs by using commercial weather data. But scientists worry that such efforts are hampering the development of radio occultation. For years, they have sought federal funding for a project to advance the technique, but Spire and its competitors say they can offer high-quality data for a fraction of the price. [emphasis mine]

The quotes I have highlighted illustrate the hidebound leftist scientific opposition to introducing private enterprise into weather research. The article, published in the journal Nature, never once articulates in any way how these private efforts will hurt scientific research. What it does show is that the private effort will cost a tenth of the government effort while getting launched much faster. The money, however, will go to these private companies, and not the scientific factions that up until now have lived on the government money train.

The complaints here are the same as those I saw in NASA back about a decade ago when NASA first considered hiring private companies to provide it cargo to ISS. This is a turf war. NOAA is now being pressured by Congress to do the same: stop building big expensive weather satellites and buy the service for much less from the private sector. The scientific community sees this as a threat to its funding and is trying to stop it.

With Republicans controlling all three branches of the federal government I think this opposition will be fruitless, and we shall see the shift to private enterprise in weather data-gathering to accelerate.

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Launch of joint NOAA/NASA weather satellite delayed again

Bad timing for NASA’s climate program: The launch of the first Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS-1), a project of both NOAA and NASA, has been delayed from March 2017 to at least July because of problems with one instrument as well as delays in completing the satellite’s ground systems.

“The main factors delaying the JPSS-1 launch are technical issues discovered during environmental testing of the satellite and the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) instrument,” Leslie said in a statement. ATMS issues were also one of the reasons for the previous delay. In addition, he cited “challenges in the completion of the common ground system” that will be used for JPSS and other NOAA polar-orbiting weather satellites.

The latest decays prompted NOAA to seek financial relief for the program. A provision in the continuing resolution (CR) passed Dec. 9, which funds the federal government through late April at 2016 levels, gives NOAA the authority to spend at higher levels for the JPSS program.

The goal with the JPSS program was to combine NOAA weather satellites with NASA’s climate research satellites. The program however has had technical and budgetary problems, as this is not the first launch delay or cost overrun.. Moreover, the origins of the JPSS program came from a failed effort in the 1990s and 2000s [pdf] to combine NOAA, Defense Department, and NASA weather satellites under what was then called the NPOESS program. When that program was restructured in 2010 to become JPSS the Defense Department pulled out.

Considering the strong rumors now suggesting that the Trump administration plans to slash NASA’s climate budget while shifting the remains of the program to NOAA, this delay of JPSS-1 is an especially good example of bad timing. It provides the new administration strong ammunition for such proposed changes.

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Atlas 5 launches NOAA weather satellite

Successfully completing its second launch in 8 days, ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket put a new NOAA weather satellite in orbit on Saturday.

NOAA is giving this new satellite a big PR push, claiming it will revolutionize weather monitoring and forecasting. While the satellite might be state of the art, it is also was very expensive, costing $1 billion. I strongly suspect that the same thing could have been built far cheaper, and quicker, if left to the private sector.

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NOAA signs first contract for private weather satellites

The competition heats up: NOAA this week signed its first contracts, totaling just over a million dollars, with two different private cubesat companies.

The small deals—$695,000 to GeoOptics and $370,000 to Spire—come as part of NOAA’s Commercial Weather Data Pilot. The deals will allow the agency to evaluate the quality of the firms’ data for forecasts and warnings, and could be the first step in a broader embrace of commercial satellites. Until now, NOAA has gathered data by building and launching its own expensive weather satellites rather than buying data from private companies.

…Plagued by cost overruns on its own satellites, NOAA has been pressured by Congress to explore commercial weather satellites, which included a mandate for the commercial weather pilot in its 2016 appropriations.

There is no reason NOAA cannot shift from being the maker of satellites to being a customer buying weather data from private satellites, much as NASA has been shifting from being a builder of rockets and spaceships to being a buyer of privately built rockets and spaceships. The shift will create competition and innovation while saving the taxpayer a lot of money.

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Congressman proposes major changes to regulation of commercial space

Doug Messier has posted a detailed analysis of Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s (R-Oklahoma) proposed American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA) that is definitely worth reading.

Most of the changes appear aimed at organizing the regulation process of commercial space more completely under FAA control, rather than the hodge-podge of agencies that presently have responsibility. The bill also encourages NOAA and NASA to increase their use of commercial data for weather and Earth remote sensing.

At first glance, the bill looks good, but it also is not likely to be passed as written. Moreover, not surprisingly it calls for a hefty increase in funding for the FAA agencies being given more responsibilities, but I wonder if Congress will comparably reduce the funding of those agencies it takes responsibility from. My instinct tells me no, which means of course that the government and bureaucracy grows again.

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NOAA plans use of private weather data

The competition heats up: Mandated by Congress to use commercial weather data obtained from privately launched weather satellites, NOAA has announced its first plan for doing so.

The first Commercial Weather Data Pilot, or CWDP, will kick off this summer with a solicitation for GPS radio occultation data of the sort NOAA and Eumetsat have been using for years to improve weather forecasts. GPS radio occultation receivers that have flown on a handful of research satellites and the U.S.-Taiwanese COSMIC constellation obtain highly detailed temperature and humidity soundings by observing tiny distortions of U.S. Air Force GPS signals as they pass through the atmosphere. While the U.S. and Taiwan are preparing to replace the six original COSMIC satellites with the first six of 12 planned satellites slated to launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy perhaps late this year, meteorologists would like to see scores of additional GPS radio occultation satellites in orbit.

Several companies, including GeoOptics, PlanetiQ and Spire, have announced plans to address that demand by deploying constellations of dozens to hundreds of small satellites equipped with GPS radio occultation receivers. Spire launched its first four operational satellites last September.

If this goes as I hope, private companies will launch enough satellites to provide the data, at a far lower cost than NOAA spends to build and launch its own satellites, so that eventually it will not pay for the government to do it anymore. Just as private space is replacing NASA in supplying crew and cargo to ISS, private space can do the same for NOAA.

And like NASA initially, NOAA’s managers have been very reluctant to allow this to happen, as it will eventually take the business from them and give it to others. Since they, like NASA, can’t do it very efficiently, however, they can’t really argue their case very well, which is why Congress has been forcing their hand.

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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!

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Monthly Solar Cycle update

NOAA released on Monday its monthly update of the solar cycle, showing the Sun’s sunspot activity in February. I am once again posting it here on Behind the Black, as I have done monthly since 2010.

February 2016 Solar Cycle graph

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction.

The change in this month’s graph is so small that you will have to look real close to see it. Essentially, the February sunspot activity dropped only a tiny amount from January’s numbers, though it did drop. As such the decline from solar maximum continues to track perfectly the decline predicted by the low prediction of the 2007 predictions. This prediction success should not be taken very seriously, however, since that same prediction expected the solar maximum to begin two years earlier than it actually did.

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February 2, 2016 Batchelor podcast

Below the fold is Tuesday’s podcast of my appearance on the John Batchelor show. In addition to discussing Falcon Heavy, Ariane 6, and the question of rocket re-usability, I also lambasted the glacially slow pace of NASA’s Orion project, producing four capsules for a mere $17 billion in only 19 years! And speaking of glaciers, I also noted in the science segment the stonewalling at NOAA that prevents scientists from analyzing the rational behind their “adjustments” to their climate data, all of which cool the past and warm the present.
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300 climate scientists demand NOAA explain its global warming climate data

No settled science here: Three hundred climate scientists have signed a letter demanding that NOAA stop stonewalling the Congressioinal investigation of the agency’s repeated adjustments to raw climate data so that the record shows increased warming, when there is none.

Of the 300 letter signers, 150 had doctorates in a related field. Signers also included: 25 climate or atmospheric scientists, 23 geologists, 18 meteorologists, 51 engineers, 74 physicists, 20 chemists and 12 economists. Additionally, one signer was a Nobel Prize winning physicist and two were astronauts.

Seems to me that this letter and the number of climate scientists willing to sign it alone demonstrates that the “97 percent consensus” on global warming is bogus. As for NOAA, the agency is legally in violation of the law by refusing to provide information requested by Congress. Moreover, what are they afraid of? If they haven’t been tampering with the data improperly, they should have no reason to resist the congressional investigation. That they are stonewalling it suggests that they are hiding something. It also suggests that they haven’t the faintest idea what the scientific method is, which requires total transparency so that others can check the results and make sure they are correct.

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A detailed review of the climate data tampering at NASA and NOAA

Steven Goddard has once again taken a close look at the climate data gathering at NOAA and NASA and found clear evidence of tampering.

He not only documents how the scientists at these agencies have adjusted the raw data to cool the past and warm the present to create the illusion of global warming, they have done so with a limited data base.

The bulk of the data tampering is being done by simply making temperatures up. If NOAA is missing data for a particular station in a particular month, they use a computer model to calculate what they think the temperature should have been.

Those calculations are then designed to support the theory of human caused global warming, caused by increased carbon dioxide.

Goddard doesn’t just tell us his opinions, he backs up his conclusions with detailed graphs and data.

Do I accept Goddard’s conclusions entirely? Maybe. The two questions I ask that none of the NOAA or NASA scientists have been willing to answer are these:
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The uncertainty of climate science

For the past five years, I have been noting on this webpage the large uncertainties that still exist in the field of climate science. Though we have solid evidence of an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we also have no idea what the consequences of that increase are going to be. It might cause the atmosphere to warm, or it might not. It might harm the environment, or it might instead spur plant life growth that will invigorate it instead. The data remains inconclusive. We really don’t even know if the climate is truly warming, and even if it is, whether CO2 is causing that warming.

While government scientists at NASA and NOAA are firmly in the camp that claims increasing carbon dioxide will cause worldwide disastrous global warming, their own data, when looked at coldly, reveals that they themselves don’t have sufficient information to make that claim. In fact, they don’t even have sufficient information to claim they know whether the climate is warming or cooling! My proof? Look at the graph below, produced by NOAA’s own National Centers for Environmental Information.
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