U.S. Earth-Sensing Satellites Left Out In the Cold

Government programs are giving weather prediction and climate monitoring shorter shrift

5 min read

When Hurricane Katrina crashed into New Orleans in August 2005, the floodwaters triggered a cascade of infrastructure failures, resulting in many hundreds of fatalities. How much worse it would have been, however, if the city had not been evacuated at all. The decision to evacuate was based primarily on observations made from a family of satellites that feed data to the National Weather Service’s supercomputers.

”The satellite systems are an enormous scientific powerhouse that saved we don’t know how many people,” says Berrien Moore III, the director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space at the University of New Hampshire, Durham.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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