Tsunami scientists object to cuts in White House budget

February 28, 2012 

AP FILE PHOTO

President Obama's proposed 2013 budget -- which is unlikely to get congressional approval in anything like its current form -- would cut $4.6 million from tsunami warning and education programs, including $1 million from the system of buoys that can give early warning of tsunamis headed toward shore. Scientists say the cuts, though paltry when compared to the overall budget, loom large in threatening their ability to maintain public safety, reports the Mercury-News of San Jose, Calif. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there's nothing to worry about.

NOAA officials say the cuts aren't sacrificing public safety. For one, they say, the buoy system will still operate despite chances it will take longer for NOAA crews to repair broken buoys at sea. And the outreach programs already have created computer risk maps, paid for thousands of coastal warning signs and funded materials for schools and civic groups, said Susan Buchanan, a NOAA spokeswoman.

"People are more aware of tsunamis and better prepared to respond to them," she said. "The program was successful."

[But John Orcutt, a professor of geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla,] said NOAA should trim from other areas, such as its satellite programs that are behind schedule. Meanwhile, critics are sounding the alarm.

"This is like a homeowner trying to economize by disconnecting the smoke detector," said Jeff Ruch, president of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit group that has raised the issue.

Read more at the Mercury-News.

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