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White House proposes steep budget cut to leading climate science agency

I generally try not to talk much about politics on this blog, but this story has big implications for anyone who uses weather forecasts in their daily planning, which includes most agricultural producers.  Here’s the notice from the Washington Post:

“The Trump administration is seeking to slash the budget of one of the government’s premier climate science agencies by 17 percent, delivering steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs, according to a four-page budget memo obtained by The Washington Post.  The proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would also eliminate funding for a variety of smaller programs, including external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and “coastal resilience,” which seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas.  NOAA is part of the Commerce Department, which would be hit by an overall 18 percent budget reduction from its current funding level.”

While the National Weather Service itself is anticipated to receive just a 5% cut, the much deeper cuts to the satellite program could potentially leave us blind to a future devastating hurricane if one of the current ones flying now breaks down at a critical time without a replacement.  And the NWS is one of the leanest federal agencies already out there and is working short-staffed in many field offices, which is potentially dangerous if a severe weather outbreak hits.

The estimated cost to taxpayers for NOAA is about $13 per household per year.

I don’t work for NOAA now or have any NOAA grants (although I have worked for the NWS in the past), but many of my meteorologist friends do, and they are among the hardest-working people I know, right up there with farmers and ranchers.

Here are stories and comments about this leaked memo below.  Of course, the meat grinder of Congress moves slowly and they may alter the budget to save NOAA and other federal agencies, but if the NWS and accurate weather and climate data are important to you, make sure that you let your Congressfolk know.

Here’s some comments from my meteorologist husband on the relative costs of NOAA compared to military spending:

“Vindictive cuts to NOAA–shooting the messenger on climate change, basically. A 17% cut overall to NOAA. Half a billion dollars gouged out of the satellite budget. Research? Forget about it. Climate data? Stick a fork in it, see if it’ll just go away. Sea Grant? Gone completely.  The priority now is our military. Never mind that all of NOAA costs just $6 billion a year; within that, the National Weather Service is just $1 billion a year. For comparison, the total cost for a B-2 Stealth bomber, including development, engineering and testing, averaged $2.1 billion *per aircraft*. And that was in 1997 dollars. And it costs about $130,000 an hour to operate a B-2… presumably even during flyovers at football games, etc.  So, we’re gutting our nation’s weather and climate surveillance capabilities for roughly the same amount of money that we spend on one airplane (or less).”

Washington PostWhite House proposes steep budget cut to leading climate science agency

Cliff Mass (University of Washington): The Trump administration proposes large cuts to U. S. weather prediction

Marshall Shepherd (University of Georgia) in Four ways NOAA benefits your life today

Laws and Nature: Cutting NOAA Isn’t Just About Climate and Satellites.  It’s About Coastal Economies.

NOAA video: The Benefit of NCEI Data to Reinsurance Companies

NOAA: The value of a weather-ready nation