BY A GUEST BLOGGER — Hurricane season doesn’t end until November 30, but National Weather Service's (NWS) ability to predict the path of any new hurricane has been compromised by problems with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Gulfstream jet used to collect data critical to computer modeling of a storm’s path.
As of September 25, the aircraft, nicknamed Gonzo, was unavailable after three missions in an eight-day span were scrubbed or aborted due to mechanical issues. There is no Gonzo II back-up, despite legislation signed in April requiring NOAA to have a second aircraft available.
Gonzo is part of a fleet of hurricane hunter planes, including those from other agencies and the military, that fly into storms, but it’s the only one that flies at high altitudes to collect the data essential for modeling.
Pressed by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the National Weather Service said only that it is working to meet the requirements. The proposed Trump 2018 budget calls for a 16% decrease in NOAA’s budget, which includes a 6% cut for the NWS.
Editor’s Note: Cecelia Blalock is a freelance business writer based in Savage, MD, who has been working with me for many years.