The Guardian claims scientists are accusing President Donald Trump of “deliberately obstructing research on global warming after it emerged that a critically important technique for investigating sea-ice cover at the poles faces being blocked.”
However, the newspaper’s claim that Trump is being blamed for the lapse in a polar satellite program is less than accurate.
One scientist The Guardian quoted Sunday pointed out a major error in the report — Congress voted to defund the satellite program before Trump took office.
“The Trump administration had nothing do with this as the decision was made by Congress in September of 2016,” David Gallaher, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“I have no idea where the Guardian got their headline,” Gallaher said. “I was asked about the pending gap in the microwave record and what happened to F-20.”
The Guardian also incorrectly reported Congress “this year insisted that a backup sea-ice probe had to be dismantled because it did not want to provide funds to keep it in storage.” That decision was actually made in 2016.
Congress voted to end the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program in 2016, citing the $500 million the U.S. Air Force spent storing the F-20 satellite. The military built the F-20 in the 1990s and planned to launch it in 2020.
Somehow, The Guardian was able to spin an event from 2016 as Trump’s fault.
The U.S. Air Force lost control of the F-19 satellite in February. That satellite provided weather and tactical data to military assets in the field, but the Air Force said it would soon stop receiving transmissions from the satellite.
On top of that, The Guardian quoted Gallaher saying “it is criminal” what the Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress had done to the polar satellite program. Gallaher said his remarks weren’t aimed at Trump.
“What is criminal is that a satellite worth 100s of millions, that had already been paid for with taxpayer money, was destroyed (against the wishes of the Air Force),” Gallaher said in an email.
The Guardian claims the U.S. won’t be a new satellite can be “launched until 2023 or later,” and “[n]one of the current satellites will still be in operation then.
But the paper left out some key details.
For starters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will launch the first of its Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) satellites into space on Friday.
The JPPS satellites will “gather global measurements of atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanic conditions, including sea and land surface temperatures, vegetation, clouds, rainfall, snow and ice cover, fire locations and smoke plumes, atmospheric temperature, water vapor and ozone,” according to NOAA.
Gallaher said the JPPS launch is a welcome development, but it would not make up for all the systems that would be lost with the F-Series.
“It lacks some of the critical passive microwave channels below 23GHz so it cannot substitute for all the capabilities of DMSP F-20,” Gallaher said.
Climate scientist Roy Spencer, who’s worked on satellite-derived climate datasets for decades, said a series of Japanese satellites are expected to play a major role in climate monitoring.
“Everyone in the business knows that these are expected to be the sea ice monitoring workhorses of the future, providing a daily global climate monitoring capability for a wide variety of weather and climate variables,” Spencer wrote in his blog.
“This claim that the Trump Administration is to blame, or that our capability is being blocked or crippled is, quite frankly, silly,” Spencer wrote.
Japan’s satellite, however, is about five years old, meaning it’s near the end of its operational life. U.S. scientists could use Chinese satellite data to supplement polar observations, but Congress barred working with Chinese scientists in 2011.