NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 25, 2005

The United States is leading an effort to create a "Global Earth Observation System of Systems" among several countries, which would better monitor extreme weather outbreaks, improve long-range forecasting and provide a warning system for earthquakes and disease outbreaks, say observers.

The system is designed to provide features such as an early warning system for disasters like the recent tsunami in India and Indonesia, which killed 300,000 people. But the United States will benefit from the system as well, say observers:

  • Since half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of a coast, a weather system could reduce the $7 billion a year damage from coastal storms.
  • Electricity costs would shrink by $1 billion a year by better preparing power companies for storm disasters.
  • Airline delays, which cost $1.4 billion a year, could be avoided.

The system, which will take about 10 years to complete, will consist of a large network of weather satellites, ocean buoys that feed warning systems, and individual nations' meteorological monitors will keep an eye on the planet.

According to Conrad Lautenbacher, head of the USA's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more monitoring equipment, such as tide gauges, is needed. Once the system is established, it will take time to set up warning systems and educate people about them.

Moreover, says Lautenbacher, it will take time for countries to establish trust among themselves, as some developing nations are reluctant to share weather information out of security concerns.

Source: Dan Vergano, "A Weatherman for the World," USA Today, February 15, 2005.

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