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Weather Satellites Need Replacing, But New Ones May Take Years

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The high-tech system that gives us early storm warnings is in jeopardy. It’s a scramble against time to replace the weather satellites that predicted Superstorm Sandy and “Snowmageddon.”

But Kai Jackson explains, the replacement satellites may not be ready for years.

Scientists say now is the time to act to replace those aging satellites.

Hurricane Katrina caused billions of dollars of damage in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.

The infamous storm known as “Snowmageddon” dumped record amounts of powder on Maryland and the mid-Atlantic in 2010.

And recently, Hurricane Sandy leveled parts of the Jersey Shore and flooded vast areas of New York.

All of these storms would have been more devastating without advanced warning from satellites.

“A lot of them are taking images. They’re measuring water vapor in the atmosphere,” said Jim O’Leary, Maryland Science Center.

But there are renewed warnings about America’s aging satellite network. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other government agencies say the ones in jeopardy are the polar orbiting satellites. They give scientists the most detailed views for weather modeling.

“Some of these are starting to fail and there’s been a delay in getting the next generation of satellites up there. So if they fail before the new satellites go up, there willl be a gap in our weather forecasting capability,” O’Leary said.

It’s critical information that allows forecasters and elected leaders to plan for evacuations and more.

“Having the capability to launch new satellites to take their place as they age is really important,” O’Leary said.

A replacement for the polar orbiting satellite isn’t expected until 2017.

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