Confidential Report Says Satellite Launches Cut

Some experts worry aging satellites hamper the forecasting ability.

June 5, 2007 — -- A weather crisis may be looming in space.

In a confidential report to the White House, a group of government scientists revealed the Bush administration's plans to downsize the number of weather satellites launched into space. The report was leaked to the watchdog group Climate Science Watch.

Climate Science Watch says the the downsizing will severely hamper the ability to gather weather data, with research on global warming the real loser.

"It is a kind of attack I think on the integrity of our whole climate science program with budget cutting," said Rick Piltz, of Climate Science Watch. "And yes, I call that criminal negligence."

Even before the White House report, experts warned that the satellite fleet was facing major problems.

One satellite, known as QuikSCAT, provides some of the only data available on the formation and intensity of hurricanes, but scientists now say it's past its prime.

Bill Proenza, the new director of the National Hurricane Center, is sounding a warning call about the future of the satellite.

"It's in borrowed time," he said of QuikSCAT. "It was launched in 1999. It has a three- to five-year life span. We are starting the eighth year of its functioning. So, at this time I'm concerned about the replacement of this satellite."

If QuikSCAT fails, some hurricane forecasts could be off by days, and that could be just the tip of the iceberg.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which along with NASA scientists wrote the confidential report, told ABC News it disagreed with Climate Science Watch, saying the ability to monitor global warming won't be adversely impacted by the scaling back of future satellite launches.