CNMI Congressman Sablan Renews Call for Weather Satellite Replacements


Saipan – As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the east coast of the United States and forecasters and emergency management officials express concern that a gap in satellite coverage will soon make predicting storm paths more difficult, Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan renewed his call for replacing aging weather satellites as quickly as possible.

Sablan is the Ranking Member of the House Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency principally responsible for the satellites. The Subcommittee held a hearing in March on funding for NOAA and focused on the delays in replacement of the dying satellites.

“Extreme weather conditions have been pummeling our nation,” Sablan said. “And climate change is likely to increase the likelihood of severe weather.

“NOAA satellites provide the data necessary for the National Weather Service to predict the paths of hurricanes and typhoons, as well as pinpoint local hazards such as volcanic ash plumes. 

[ March 6, 2012 hearing of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs. Dr. Jane Lubchenco of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan of the Northern Mariana Islands discuss the need for funding to replace NOAA’s aging weather satellites prior to a March hearing on the agency’s FY13 budget. Sablan is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other federal environmental agencies.]

“It is vital that our government continue to provide timely and precise forecasts, so that people and businesses can prepare and protect themselves.”

Sablan pledged to work in Congress to ensure that NOAA has resources needed to develop, acquire, operate, and maintain environmental and weather satellites.

In response to Congressional concern and critical outside reviews, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco has ordered an overhaul of the program to replace the Joint Polar Satellite System. The pole-to-pole orbits of the satellites record data over a broad swath of the globe, providing a principal basis for weather forecasters. Lubchenco admitted that “this dysfunctional program has become a national embarrassment due to chronic management problems.”

Even with the overhaul, some gap in coverage is likely to occur in coming years. The target launch date for the JPSS replacements is in 2017.

The satellite system monitors global environmental conditions and collects and distributes data related to oceans, weather, atmosphere, land and near-space environment.

“It is imperative that there can be no further delay in developing and launching the JPSS,” Sablan says, “or we are putting lives and property at further risk.”