November 22nd, 2011 • 4:07 PM
Severe Weather on Capitol Hill

by Meghan Rouillard

On Wednesday, November 16, Alicia Cerretani and I attended a hearing of the Senate's Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard on "continued innovation in weather forecasting and prediction." Two senators, Mark Begich from Alaska (D) and Olympia Snowe from Maine (R) chaired the event, asking questions to two separate panels featuring people from NOAA, The Weather Channel, members of the US Coast Guard, and a few people from the private sector who have partnered with federal agencies on different technologies.

Begich's initial comments focused, among other things, on the storm of “epic proportions” which just hit Alaska, and Snowe's opening comments focused almost exclusively on the importance of the polar orbiting satellite, and that theme came up continually. The gap in data which would come in late 2016 could potentiallly be a problem for up to 21 months. Snowe and others continued to note the fact that this provides for our 3-5 day weather forecast. Both senators were pretty concerned with it, their questions to the panelists were anywhere from what are you doing at NOAA to prepare for this gap? Is it just a matter of funding? Can other nations help us alleviate the gap in data?

It was clear from the answers that it is, in fact, largely a matter of funding, and yes, we do work with other nations, for example, we rely on the Europeans for our mid-morning orbit for our current polar orbiting mission. The NOAA fellow also said that we are in a dialogue with China on the polar orbiting data and they use the data so it is in their interest as well that we don't lose forecasting capabilities in a data gap.

The “test JPSS”, NPP for short, or “National Polar Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite Preparatory Project” for long, launched from Vanderburg AFB in late October, also has known limits, not the least of which is the fact that it is an experimental satellite, which was not intended to fill the data gap. It didn’t pass certain tests which a fully qualified satellite would, and was only designed to last for 3-5 years. To fill in the gap, we’d need to rely on this satellite (which has a “p” in its name for “preparatory”) for up to 7 years. Not good.

As far as newer, private or simply less widespread parameters to use in weather forecasting, which I had my ears open for, the Earth Networks Total Lightning Network (ENTLN) was discussed by the CEO of that group, who was on one of the panels. According to their site.

“ENTLN is the world’s largest lightning detection network. ENTLN incorporates the most advanced lightning location technology and is the first network to detect both in-cloud (IC) and cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning. More than 360 lightning sensors from around the globe provide updates to the Earth Network weather network, making ENTLN the world’s largest and fastest lightning detection network.”

Sounds interesting, for sure. But when this panelist seemed to imply that an integration of existing data, especially that from ground based readings, would put us in a better position, I noticed a couple of people shaking their heads, and Snowe quickly asked him to clarify that he was not in fact saying that satellites like the polar orbiting ones were not needed; he quickly clarified that he did not intend to say that. So, in a way, there was lots of preaching to the choir, from the Senators to panelists and vice versa, especially on the matter of the polar satellites, and likely a looming fear that this would be crushed by people not in the room., i.e. Barry Obama

Another notable, new parameter to add to our forecasting capabilities was also raised, which I hadn’t heard of, and which is sitting at a university in Oklahoma currently. Here’s a blurb about it from this article.

Dual-polarization is the newest and most advanced radar technology. The only place where one can see a fully operational dual-polarization radar is in Norman, Oklahoma. It is mainly used for research and educational purposes at this time. Traditional weather radars, including the National Weather Service’s NEXRAD, transmit horizontally oriented radio wave pulses. Dual-polarization radars (also called Polarimetric radar) transmit both horizontally and vertically oriented pulses. Current radars are only able to measure the horizontal dimensions of clouds and precipitation. This is sufficient enough to pick up on cloud water, cloud ice, rain, sleet, snow, and hail; however, if the radar was able to measure the vertical dimensions, it would lead to increased accuracy of rain and snow rates, rainfall and snowfall, and better detection of hail size and rain/snow transition regions.

In dual-polarized display below, each color indicates a different type of precipitation occurring.

Needless to say, such interesting new technologies should become fully integrated into our forecasting methods for the purpose of improving them, but we are far from being able to count on such a government commitment to help make that happen so long as Obama is still in office (I’ll return again to this point in a minute).

In her closing remarks, Senator Snowe looked at the panelists and said, "for the record, it's not my imagination, right? We are experiencing anomalous severe weather, right?"

The Weather Channel panelist nodded and said, "yes, this year we have had 14 $1 billion in damage or more weather events, not including the recent storm in Alaska. The only other year that comes close to that is a year when we had about 50% of that damage." Even a monetary measurement gives us an indication of where we’re headed currently (and it should be noted that nobody cared to question panelist David Trimble when he threw the anthropogenic climate change stink bomb into the discussion. i.e. noone cared).

We made contacts with a few of the panelists afterwards. One fellow from the Weather Channel was with us on the earth-sun weather correlations, but his eyes popped out of his head when we raised the galactic factors of changing weather here on earth. He said he’s heard something about the cosmic radiation connection to Katrina, a study which we know from Pulinets, but wasn’t sure of the science behind it. We spoke to the policy director of the Western Governors' Association, who's testimony centered largely around the severe drought in the west this year (we intend to send him material on NAWAPA, of course). He also acknowledged that there might be something to the solar and galactic factors involved with the weather, but commented that “some of it is a bit esoteric.” So, we’ve still got our work cut out for us, but so do our reps. and others in DC! Obama, if anyone has forgotten, is on record as being anti-forecasting, reflected in statements he made in the wake of the deadly tornado season which hit the south, and statements which he repeated since then. In fact, such disregard for the well-being of his fellow humans is only a predictable feature of his general Nero complex which the empire has found so useful, and which is especially dangerous in a period when we’re expecting more extreme weather, maybe for the next few million years.

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