Trump's proposed NOAA budget cuts rattle scientists

The White House is proposing a 17% cut to the nation's top weather and climate agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Washington Post reported, and many scientists are worried.

NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and oversees the National Weather Service. It "is the lead agency for the nation's weather forecasts, weather satellites, fisheries, ocean services and climate monitoring," University of Georgia meteorologist Marshall Shepherd wrote in a commentary for Forbes magazine. A drastic cut could "place American lives and property at risk," Shepherd said.

"The proposed cuts are huge and would cripple the ability of the National Weather Service to improve the quality of weather predictions provided to the American people," Seattle-based meteorologist Cliff Mass said on his blog.

NOAA also operates the large fleet of weather satellites and multimillion-dollar computer models that warn Americans of dangerous weather. "NOAA's satellites and numerical weather prediction is key infrastructure for the United States and a foundation of U.S. economic strength  and protection of American lives. It needs more resources, not less," Mass said.

Data from the agency are also used to create the forecasts used by private meteorologists such as The Weather Channel and AccuWeather. Energy industry meteorologist Matt Lanza tweeted that "as a private sector meteorologist, I depend heavily on availability of data like this to do my job in energy."

Cutting the satellite portion of their budget is "reckless," Lanza tweeted.

WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue said that "we must be careful to ensure that research programs that provide enormous value to the public for a relatively low cost are maintained and, if possible expanded."

NOAA’s annual budget is currently $5.6 billion, a small fraction of the federal government’s $1.2 trillion discretionary budget. according to Climate Central. The weather service costs each American about $3 per year, the agency said on its website. The service "provides each person in the U.S. with timely and accurate basic weather, water and climate forecasts and information, as well as life-saving watches and warnings when severe weather strikes."

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The Department of Commerce and NOAA had no comment when asked by USA TODAY about the proposed cuts.

The Washington Post obtained a memo from the Office of Management and Budget on Friday afternoon, which detailed the cuts. The budget numbers often go back and forth during negotiations between the agency and the White House and between lawmakers and the administration later on in the process, the Post said. The 2018 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

President Trump intends to submit his budget to Congress on March 13, Weather Underground said.

Rick Spinrad, a former chief scientist for NOAA, told weather.com the proposed cuts are "short-sighted and ill-informed."

"They reflect a misunderstanding of the value of NOAA's research and operations (especially satellite operations) on the safety and well-being of every American," Sprinrad said. "Unless the administration is not interested in continuing to enhance the protection of the lives and property of our citizens through, for example, improved weather forecasts, watches and warnings, these cuts should not be implemented."

Another expert notes that "virtually all we know about Earth’s atmosphere and oceans comes from sustained decades of government-funded scientific research," according to a tweet from UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain.

USA TODAY


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