Experts were still classifying the 2004 hurricane season as one of the worst on record when the 2005 hurricane season came right on its heels and shattered many of the all-time records including:

– The most category 5 storms — four;

– T he most named storms — 28 ;

– T he most major hurricanes (category 3, 4 and 5) to hit the United States — four; and

– T he most retired hurricane names — five .

The nation still has no t recovered, yet on June 1 we entered the 2006 hurricane season.

Every year from June 1 to November 30 residents who live along the coastline from Brownsville to Boston keep a weary eye on the tropics — as do environmental satellites orbiting the Earth.

It is the job of those satellites to monitor the slightest twitch in the atmosphere that might develop into the next multi billion-dollar disaster for our homeland. When a small circulation is detected, weather forecasting plays a critical role in the warning process — accurate forecasts as early as possible provide crucial time to respond and take action. Those early warnings issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) can reduce loss of life and damage by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The future weather satellite system that has been in the news called NPOESS, or the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, recently has been reviewed by the best minds in the space business and has been recertified as a program that is essential to national security and safety . The reviewers determined that there are no alternatives that will provide greater capability at less cost; that the new estimates of the program costs are reasonable; and that the management structure of the program is adequate to manage and control costs.

All of us who demand and work toward more accurate weather forecasts will see improvements from every sensor on board NPOESS. The original architects did a tremendous job of combining the future environmental sensing needs of NOAA, the Department of Defense and NASA into a single system. They pushed the state of the art to gain as much as possible, placing stretch goals in virtually every category.

Developmental challenges with some of the most complex and crucial new sensors have forced some tough choices to keep the program on track and affordable. We are just learning that some of the lower-priority planned sensors have had to be removed or delayed. While no one is pleased with this, we should congratulate the visionary leadership for preserving a system design that ensures continuity of the data streams we use today and can efficiently accommodate growth as new technologies are developed that will bring even better sensors to orbit in the future.

Our climate is changing, and the weather can change at a moment’s notice. Hurricane seasons seem to be getting longer, and the number of storms on average has increased throughout the last several years. At the same time, some estimates predict nearly 75 percent of the U.S. population will be living along the coast by 2025. Most of those citizens have never experienced a hurricane.

The people of this nation are the ones who will benefit from NPOESS — not only those who live along the coast, but those who need to know with certainty if their crops will get rain in the next week, citizens who fear another devastating fire season and those who need as much lead time as possible to be forewarned of severe weather. Our nation needs this satellite system so that our warfighters can enter harm’s way knowing the environmental conditions with high confidence any place around the world.

We will all sleep better at night under a blanket of national security. I agree with the House Science Committee when they say, NPOESS cannot come too soon.

Dave Jones is president and chief executive officer of StormCenter Communications Inc. He also serves as president of the Foundation for Earth Science.