Hurricane sat flying on borrowed time

It will take four years and $400 million to replace the QuickSat. If it fails before that, heavy storm warning may degrade as much as 16%.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

Even as New Orleans continues to founder after the disasterous Hurrican Katrina, the National Hurrican Center says forecasts are likely to become 16 percent less reliable if a key satellite fails. It's already well beyond its expected lifespan and the Center's new director is calling for hundreds of millions of dollars for expanded research and predictions, reports the Associated Press.

And in a statement sure to get him in trouble with the Bush Administratin, NHC Director Bill Proenza also said that ties between global warming and increased hurricane strength seemed a "natural linkage." But he cautioned that other weather conditions play a larger part in determining the strength and number of hurricanes.

Replacing the "QuikScat" weather satellite, which lets forecasters measure basics such as wind speed, is of immediate concern. Replacing it would take four years and $400 million. It's already two years past its life expectancy. If it fails before it's replaced, the two-day hurricane forecast could be 10 percent worse, while the three-day one could be affected up to 16 percent, Proenza said.

New Orleans, the Northeast and the Florida Keys are the most vulnerable areas of the country.

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