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Weather satellite outage threatens to foul forecasts

By Mary Papenfuss
Until the National Weather Service and NOAA can figure out why a data segment is missing from their weather satellites, they can't publish updated images of storms on their web sites. UPI/NOAA
Until the National Weather Service and NOAA can figure out why a data segment is missing from their weather satellites, they can't publish updated images of storms on their web sites. UPI/NOAA | License Photo

SILVER SPRING, Md., Oct. 22 (UPI) -- A key segment of data from a network of weather satellites has mysteriously gone dark, which could put accurate forecasts at even more risk than usual.

The outage doesn't appear to be linked to any solar storm activity, and the National Weather Service is investigating possible causes. It's not clear whether the missing data is only affecting the US service or international agencies as well.

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Officials seemed to contradict one another on the seriousness of the outage's impact on forecasts. An initial memo Wednesday from the service's National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) said the missing data stream could "potentially" impact forecasts, but an official later said the forecast models are still credible because redundant backup systems fill in some of the information. One expert, however, warned that forecasts risk becoming less reliable the longer the data segment is missing.

As they work to pinpoint the problem, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service don't have updated images to publish on their websites of developing storms such as the Nor'easter over the East Coast and the tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico. NASA space images are up to date, indicating the problem is specific to the weather system.

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