Tag Archives: NOAA

NOAA’s prediction for the next solar maximum

Last week NOAA introduced a newly revamped graph for tracking the monthly activity of sunspots on the Sun’s visible hemisphere. (You can see an example of the old graph, used by them for more than fifteen years, here.)

In order to properly understand the context of future sunspot activity, it is important to understand how the new graph aligns with the old. My first attempt to do so in my April 3, 2020 sunspot update, unfortunately was a failure. While most of my conclusions in that update remain correct, my attempt to place NOAA’s prediction for the next solar cycle on my graph was in error.

I had not realized that NOAA had changed its sunspot number scale on the graph’s vertical axis. In their old graph they had used the monthly sunspot number count from the Royal Observatory of Belgium. The new graph instead used the sunspot number from NOAA’s own Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). Both numbers are creditable, but the solar scientist community has switched entirely to the latter in the past few years because they consider its criteria for determining the count across all past cycles to be more accurate.

The Belgium numbers have traditionally been about one third lower than SWPC’s. Not realizing that NOAA’s new prediction was based on the SWPC numbers, I therefore placed it on the graph using the Belgium numbers and thus made the peak of the solar maximum 33% too high.

Below is NOAA’s new graph, annotated properly with both the past and new solar cycle predictions added now correctly.
» Read more

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NOAA’s aging fleet of sun-observation satellites

In testimony during a Senate hearing on February 12, the head of NOAA’s space weather division admitted that the agency’s ability to monitor the Sun is threatened by its aging fleet of solar satellites, combined with the agency’s slow progress on a large single replacement satellite, presently scheduled for launch in 2024.

NOAA currently uses the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) and NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft to collect solar wind data, and uses the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft to observe the solar corona, using those data to forecast solar storms that can affect satellites and terrestrial infrastructure such as power grids.

However, SOHO, launched in December 1995, is well past its design life. In addition, DSCOVR has been offline since June 2019 because of technical problems, forcing NOAA to depend solely on ACE, which launched in 1997. [emphasis mine]

NOAA has been trying, and failing, to build a replacement for ACE for more than a decade. Worse, the agency’s inability to deal with these issues was further revealed by this quote:

Congress has pushed to speed up work on that [replacement] mission, despite NOAA’s assurances about the availability of data from other spacecraft. NOAA sought about $25 million for the mission in its fiscal year 2020 budget request, but Congress appropriated $64 million. NOAA has yet to release its fiscal year 2021 budget request, more than a week after the White House published the overall federal government budget proposal.

Something has been wrong in the management at NOAA now for at least a decade. They can’t seem to get new satellites built, and when they try they can’t seem to do it on schedule and for a reasonable cost. Their weather satellite program has been rife with problems, including cost overruns, schedule delays, and failing satellites.

But why should we be surprised? This kind of mismanagement at the federal government has been par for the course for the past half century.

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The terrible consequences of NOAA’s data tampering

Link here.

In 2017 Tony Heller broke the story of how NOAA and NASA have been routinely adjusting their historic global temperature records to cool the past and warm the present in order to create the illusion that the climate is warming, far more than it is.

The post by Heller at the link above focuses in on how that tampering, which erased from the temperature data the record-hot year of 1934, is then used by both NOAA and NASA to claim each year for the past decade was the hottest ever.

The raw data however tells a far different story. The raw data from 1934, as reported amply at the time, recorded big heat waves and murderous droughts and extensive dust storms, all far more extreme than anything we have experienced in the past decade. Moreover, that raw data matches well with public news stories, and also matches well with all the published science prior to the 2000s.

Since then, however, intellectual honesty and the real scientific method has been replaced by an agenda-driven political manipulations. Having 1934 be the hottest year ever cannot stand, especially if present temperatures do not exceed that year’s records. Global warming demands a correction!

The nicest interpretation we can give to these adjustments is that the scientists are innocently engaged in confirmation bias. They believe the Earth is warming due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and thus they must find evidence of that warming, even if it requires data adjustments to past record-hot years like 1934, adjustments that they then rationalize as necessary and scientifically justified.

More likely, they have decided that their political agenda to prove human-caused global warming requires them to be intellectually dishonest and the falsify the global temperature record. If so, this is a tragedy beyond words, as it signals that the revolution in human thought that began with the Renaissance and Galileo and was reinforced and cemented by the Enlightenment and Francis Bacon, has now ended.

That revolution made possible a burst of human creativity and civilization that lasted more than five hundred years. The consequences for future generations should that revolution be rejected now cannot be good.

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House committee approves bill coordinating the government’s space weather work

The House science, space, and technology committee has approved a new bill that establishes a coordinating structure for the many government agencies involved in observing and research space weather, the material that the Sun throws at us that can affect electrical grids and communications.

A similar bill has been approved by the Senate commerce committee, but with several important differences, the most important of which is likely this provision in the House bill:

The provision requires NOAA to establish a commercial space weather data pilot program within one year of the bill’s enactment. Through that program, NOAA is to offer to enter into contracts with “one or more entities in the commercial space weather sector” to provide data that meets standards and specifications that NOAA, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, must publish within 18 months of enactment. The data may be ground-based, ocean-based, air-based, or space-based. NOAA “may offer” to award “at least one” competitively-bid contract within 12 months of when the Integrated Strategy required in the bill, as reviewed by the National Academies, is transmitted to Congress. “If” one or more contract is awarded, NOAA is to assess the value of the pilot program and report to Congress within 4 years of enactment.

The goal of this provision is to shift construction of new space weather facilities, including satellites, from the government to private industry. Like NASA and the Defense Department, NOAA in recent decades has generally done a poor job of building satellites cheaply and quickly to maintain its in-space monitoring network. The hope is that by depending on the growing private sector, the agency can get its satellites replaced more effectively, while also energizing the space private sector.

The Senate and House bills both have only passed through committee. We shall see if the Senate agrees to add this provision to its version of the bill.

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Swamp attacks Trump over hurricane forecasts

Last week, as Hurricane Dorian approached the Florida coast, President Trump held a press briefing where he showed a graph with extra markings that suggested that Alabama might be impacted by the hurricane.

Unfortunately for Trump, this path for Dorian — though initially considered a possibility in the National Weather Service models — was also considered very unlikely, and had been quickly dismissed from those models, making Trump’s graph out-of-date when he showed it.

Since then the Democratic mainstream media has put out hundreds of stories claiming some sort of corruption on Trump’s part for adding those extra markings. Trump has himself responded aggressively, defending his action and saying it was justified. The New York Times even reported — based on anonymous sources — that Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross had threatened to fire three people at the National Weather Service if they didn’t issue a statement defending Trump.

Now, three former Democratic NOAA heads, D. James Baker (appointed by Bill Clinton), Jane Lubchenco (appointed by Barack Obama), and Kathryn D. Sullivan (appointed by Barack Obama), have issued a statement condemning Trump, claiming his actions are threatening the scientific integrity of these agencies.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has always been a model of scientific integrity, ensuring that weather science is not politically driven, regardless of the administration. But the recent misleading statements by President Donald Trump about a NWS hurricane forecast and cover-up actions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), its parent agency, have violated those norms.

Forgive me if I don’t take very seriously this smug, self-righteous posturing by these former NOAA officials, all partisan Democratic Party political appointees. Scientific integrity suddenly means a lot to them when they can use it to attack Trump. However, when NOAA repeatedly tampered with its climate data for the past dozen years, and has provided no good explanation for that tampering, I don’t remember these high and mighty officials, all in charge of NOAA at the time, commenting then about the importance of scientific integrity.

Trump is no saint here. He as a politician wanted to cover all bets, so he added Alabama in discussing Dorian’s threat, even though his weather scientists considered that threat slim if nonexistent. He should have relied more on those scientists and not improvised.

For him however to be attacked relentless for this minor addition is absurd, since it is perfectly reasonable for weather scientists to get their predictions wrong, and as president Trump has a responsibility to try to prepare for all eventualities.

These NOAA critics are far less credible however. There are questionable things going on at NOAA in connection with its global climate dataset that requires either an explanation or a correction. This is a far more serious issue than whether a politician expanded the threat of a hurricane in one press briefing in order to cover his ass. The tampering threatens to discredit the entire NOAA climate dataset, making all research based on it untrustworthy. If these former NOAA officials really cared about scientific integrity, they would have taken action at NOAA to deal with this tampering, when they ran those agencies. They would have either gotten it stopped, or provided the public and the rest of the scientific community a reasonable explanation for it.

They did neither, proving that their sanctimonious statement today is nothing more than partisan politics. They don’t care about scientific integrity. What they care about is defeating Trump, helping the Democratic Party, and enhancing the power of the Washington swamp.

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No warming in U.S. since 2005

NOAA data since 2005
Click for full image.

Using temperature stations specifically picked to eliminate as many biases and temperature errors as possible, NOAA has found that since 2005 the continental United States has experienced no warming at all.

The graph at the right, reduced to post here, illustrates this.

In January 2005, NOAA began recording temperatures at its newly built U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN). USCRN includes 114 pristinely maintained temperature stations spaced relatively uniformly across the lower 48 states. NOAA selected locations that were far away from urban and land-development impacts that might artificially taint temperature readings.

Prior to the USCRN going online, alarmists and skeptics sparred over the accuracy of reported temperature data. With most preexisting temperature stations located in or near urban settings that are subject to false temperature signals and create their own microclimates that change over time, government officials performed many often-controversial adjustments to the raw temperature data. Skeptics of an asserted climate crisis pointed out that most of the reported warming in the United States was non-existent in the raw temperature data, but was added to the record by government officials.

The USCRN has eliminated the need to rely on, and adjust the data from, outdated temperature stations. Strikingly, as shown in the graph below, USCRN temperature stations show no warming since 2005 when the network went online. If anything, U.S. temperatures are now slightly cooler than they were 14 years ago.

What is significant about this data is how it reveals the dishonesty of the adjustments that NOAA and NASA have been making to the temperature data. Those adjustments, supposedly done to make the data more accurate, have always cooled the past and warmed the present, a pattern that by itself is very suspicious.

These temperature stations were chosen to create a reliable baseline, picking stations that needed no adjustment and would thus give scientists a measure for justifying any alterations they impose on the raw data. Not only does this data suggest strongly that the claims of global warming year after year (“This year was the hottest on record!”) are suspect, it also shows that there is something seriously wrong with their adjustments. If their modifications to the raw data was correct, then this set of data should have matched it. It does not.

Will this mean they will readjust the overall data to eliminate the cooling in the past and the warming in the near present to make the data better fit what these results prove? Don’t be silly! That would show that there is little merit to the theories of the global warming alarmists, something that cannot be tolerated. It might cause those big government contracts to be cancelled. Worse, it will make it more difficult for these leftists to use the data to justify reshaping society into their vision of a socialist utopia.

No, what I expect to happen is that the scientists at NOAA (who also happen to be the ones who have been tampering with all the other data) to begin altering the temperature data from these baseline stations, to make them fit their theories. Or as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden recently put it, “We choose truth over facts.”

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NOAA revises upward its ordinary average 2019 hurricane season prediction

NOAA last week announced that it is revising upward its hurricane prediction for the 2019, changing it from average and ordinary to slightly higher than average and ordinary.

Seasonal forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have increased the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 45% (up from 30% from the outlook issued in May). The likelihood of near-normal activity is now at 35%, and the chance of below-normal activity has dropped to 20%.

The number of predicted storms is also greater with NOAA now expecting 10-17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 5-9 will become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater), including 2-4 major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater). This updated outlook is for the entire six-month hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30.

The problem with NOAA’s desire to imply that we are all going to die from massive hurricanes is twofold. First, take a look at the most recent hurricane graphs at Weatherstreet.com. NOAA’s unrevised prediction for Atlantic hurricanes was totally in the center of the average for the years from 1966 to 2009. It also was significantly below 2005, the worst hurricane year on record that was used by global warming activists to claim global warming was causing more storms that were more extreme.

The problem is that 2005 was an outlier. For almost a dozen years afterward no category 3 or more hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. and only a very few have followed since.

The newly revised prediction still predicts an average and ordinary number of hurricanes in 2019, just very slightly above the average for the past half century.

But no matter. The number will be higher! We are all going to die! We must silence anyone who disagrees because their denialism will cause more deaths!

Welcome to the coming dark age.

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NASA/NOAA failure report for GOES-17: The government screwed up

A joint investigation by NASA and NOAA into the failure issues on the GOES-17 weather satellite, launched in March 2018, have determined that the problem with the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), the satellite’s main instrument, was caused by

a blockage in the instrument’s loop heat pipes, which transfer heat from the ABI electronics to its radiator. The blockage restricted the flow of coolant in the loop heat pipes, causing the ABI to overheat and reducing the sensitivity of infrared sensors.

You can read the short full report here [pdf].

My immediate thought in reading the press release above was: So a blockage caused the problem. What caused the blockage? Was it a design failure or a construction mistake? Or what? The answer to this question is even more critical in that the same issues have been identified in GOES-16, though not as serious.

Moreover, GOES-16 and GOES-17 are the first two satellites in a planned new weather constellation of four satellites. Knowing who or what caused this blockage prior to construction and launch of the two later satellites is critical.

I immediately downloaded the report and read it, thinking it would name the contractor and the cause of the blockage.

Nope. The report is remarkably vague about these details, which the report justifies as follows:

The report is NASA sensitive, but unclassified (SBU), because it contains company proprietary information. The report also contains information restricted by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and/or the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). This summary report provides an overview of publicly releasable information contained in the full report.

In other words, this report is an abridged version of the full report, which is being kept classified because it contains both commercial proprietary information and information that if released would violate ITAR regulations designed to keep U.S. technology from reaching foreign hands.

What this public report does imply in its recommendations, in a remarkable vague way, is that the problem occurred because the government had demanded changes during construction that forced significant redesigns by the contractor, none of which were then given sufficient review.

Or to put it more bluntly, NOAA and NASA, the lead agencies in the GOES project, screwed up. They forced the contractor to make changes, probably very late in the process, resulting in inadequate review of those changes.

The recommendations put forth many suggestions to institute a more detailed review process, should late changes in the construction of the next two GOES satellites be required or demanded. Such recommendations however will only further delay and increase the costs for building those satellites. Since the entire constellation went overbudget significantly (from $7 billion initially to $11 billion), and has also been very late (see this GAO report [pdf]), this means that the next two satellites will be even later and more expensive.

For NASA and NOAA this is just fine, pumping more money into each agency. For the taxpayer it is terrible.

The whole process should be dumped. Give the job of building these satellites to the private sector, entirely. Get these agencies out of the construction business. The only contribution they are presently adding is more cost and delays, while also causing satellite failures.

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The Greatest Scientific Fraud Of All Time — Part XXIII

Link here. The author continues a long running series outlining the data manipulation and tampering that has been going on at NOAA and NASA to distort the global temperature record so it will confirm the theories of global warming activists. As he notes,

Sure enough, there have been additional adjustments, as always in the same direction — older down, and newer up. But those adjustments between v.3 and v.4 have been relatively minor. More significantly, Kirye discovered a different maneuver which is even more incredible, and which he proves by direct links back to NASA’s own website: In the v.4 graphs that it provides, NASA has relabeled the hugely-adjusted v.3 data as “unadjusted.”

He pinpoints how NASA is now taking its adjusted data and labeling them unadjusted, so that it can justify even more adjustments, all always cooling the past and warming the present. As he adds,

Funny that once again, each one of the adjustments somehow enhances the warming trend. Is it really possible that never once does any new data, or adjustment to data, lead to a change in the other direction?

This is political hackwork disguised as science. Until the climate science community does something to stop this and clean up the mess in its global temperature data, they will find themselves unable to convince anyone of their scientific credibility. Which by the way is generally in the sewer.

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Sunspot update January 2019: The early solar minimum

As I have done every month since 2011, I am now posting NOAA’s the monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for January 2019. They posted this update on Monday, and I am posting it below, annotated to give it some context.

January 2019 sunspot activity

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.

January saw a slight uptick in sunspot activity, but the overall activity remains comparable to mid-2008, when the last prolonged solar minimum began. If you go to my October 2018 update, you can see the graph when it included data going back to 2000 and see the entire last minimum.

That last minimum started in the last half of 2007, and lasted until mid-2009, a full two years. If you look at the red line prediction of the solar science community, it appears that they are expecting this coming minimum to last far longer, almost forever. I expect this is not really true, but that they have simply not agreed on a prediction for the next cycle. Some in that solar science community have hypothesized that we are about to enter a grand minimum, with no sunspots for decades and thus no solar maximum. Others do not agree.

Since neither faction really understands the mechanism that causes these sunspot cycles, there is no way now to determine what will happen, until it does so. What we do know from climate data is that the Earth cools when the Sun is inactive. Why remains unclear, though there is at least one theory, with some evidence, that attempts to explain it.

And despite the untrustworthy claims of NOAA and NASA scientists that the last few years have been hot, experience on the ground disputes this. Their data has been adjusted (tampered if one wants to be more blunt) to make it fit their global warming theory. The raw unadjusted data suggests things have instead cooled, which better fits with the brutal winters Americans experienced for the past decade or so.

If the Sun does enter a grand minimum in the coming decades, I suspect it will become increasingly difficult for NOAA and NASA to continue their temperature adjustments and continue claiming things are getting warmer. At a minimum, we will learn something about the Sun and its behavior and its influence on the climate that we never knew before.

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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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