Heed alarm over state of our satellites

How could we verify whether it was 46 or 50 quadrillion snowflakes (“Snowflakes in record numbers?” Letters, Feb. 12) that fell on Boston? We would need accurate measurements acquired over a wide area, probably best obtained by satellite observations. While the number of snowflakes may not be so important, the correct prediction of storms certainly is, as the Globe rightly noted in its editorial in the same edition, “Blizzard to nowhere,” which acknowledged that the availability of the required satellite data is becoming increasingly problematic.

For well more than a decade, earth scientists have been sounding the alarm — through, for example, the National Academy of Sciences — at the deteriorating state of the available network of remote sensing satellites. The existing satellites are getting old, and they are not being replaced at a rate required to maintain the status quo, let alone expand their reach into the information needed for appropriate national and global policy decisions about weather, climate, and global resources.

Further, we need not merely more, but better, more accurate measurement data, coupled to the specific needs of earth science and policy decisions. Those of us who are anxious about the state of our climate and our knowledge about it must go beyond our own parochial communities to engage the public at large in supporting the societal commitments needed to address these huge problems.

Eric C. Kintner