Weather satellite issue not a problem for Arkansas – yet

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 129 views 

There are replacement refs, talk about replacing a coach (think John L. Smith), and now in the mix is a replacement weather satellite. was one of the first to report earlier this week that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is using a replacement satellite to cover for problems with Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) 13.

Garrett Lewis, chief meteorologist for KFSM 5News, said the outage should not impact weather reports for Arkansas. He said the service providing weather graphics and data to KFSM automatically switches to the best feed, so he initially wasn’t aware of the issue.

According to Accuweather, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and other sources, the failure of GOES 13 initially resulted in wide swaths of the U.S. east to go dark with respect to weather coverage. NOAA officials said Monday (Sept. 24) that GOES-13 was placed in stand-by mode following problems with imagery.

The GOES-14 was pulled into position on Monday to fill the void, but the data is not as good because the satellite is positioned west. (Link here to see the satellite gap in imagery provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.)

“The U.S also has polar orbiting satellites. However, the images are rather narrow and not continuous, like the GOES, geostationary satellites,” Accuweather noted in its report.

Accuweather reported that NOAA engineers are working on a solution to fix GOES-13 from the ground and have no timetable for the satellite’s return to duty.

“Should GOES-14 fail during the GOES-13 outage, more substantial gaps in satellite data are possible over the U.S,” noted the Accuweather story.

Earlier this year, GOES-15 (GOES-West) was out of action for several days and it GOES-13 was repositioned to fill part of the gap. The result was distorted images on part of the Pacific Basin for a time.

Lewis did note that the issue could become a problem if U.S. officials can’t improve the satellite system in future years, or if GOES 13 is more badly damaged than is known.

“There's millions of dollars in space technology that's not working, other satellites picking up the slack, and the federal budget wants to cut down on spending. There is no indication how bad it's damaged and whether it will be down a few days or indefinitely,” Lewis said.

The cuts Lewis mentioned are an estimated $182 million from NOAA’s satellite program that would automatically happen if Congress is unable to agree to a budget-cutting plan by January 2013. NOAA could also seen an almost 15% budget cut in its fiscal year 2014 funding.

Reduced funding is not likely to help NOAA meet the recommendations in a recent report that its weather satellite programs is “dysfunctional.” NOAA, through its National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, requested the review from an independent review team, based on this report from Aviation Week.

The report said timely launch and management of its modern weather satellites (GOES-R) and the Joint Polar Satellite System will be “extremely challenging” under existing operations. The new GOES-R satellites are expected to launch in 2015.