Wednesday, May 22, 2013

weather getting worse and our ability to forecast not keeping up..,



livescience | Whether fiscal, political or global, we are living in an environment of change. Unfortunately, although our natural environment is changing drastically, our national response to deal with it is not.
During last Thursday's House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the fiscal year 2014 budget, Chairman Frank Wolf and Ranking Member Chaka Fattah cautioned those present that the nation's fiscal situation simply will not allow for new funding or the expansion of programs. As I sat there listening in full agreement, I couldn't help but wonder why there haven't been more solutions put forward to improve current investments in numerous areas related to commerce, justice and science. Surely, this is a problem we — the most technologically advanced nation in the world — can fix.

Our environmental information capability is a good example. Extreme weather and climatic events have had tremendous social and economic impacts on the nation. Numerous respected institutions, such as the National Research Council and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), have repeatedly called attention to the decline of U.S. Earth-monitoring capabilities such as vital weather satellites. Yet, we have not seen any change in how that investment is made or managed.

Just two weeks ago, GAO added weather satellites to its high-risk list, citing concerns over a potential gap in weather satellite coverage of 17 to 53 months beginning in 2014. As reported broadly through the media these last few weeks, our nation has now fallen behind Europe in weather forecast modeling. The Reinsurance Association of America estimates the insured value of U.S. coasts at $9 trillion, yet the country has only a small, emerging, operational ocean-observing capability. Despite more than 60 percent of the continental U.S. experiencing drought last summer, our national drought monitoring and forecasting capabilities continue to face funding challenges.

Finally, while more and more national security experts identify climate change as a major threat, the country has yet to establish an operational long-term forecasting capability. Our nation's annual investment in that area is estimated at $3 billion, spread across 17 federal agencies. Considering the following statistics from Munich Reinsurance's U.S. Natural Catastrophe Update for 2012, shouldn't we be asking whether this amount, and how it is being invested, is adequate to protect America's future?