updated 3/16/2007 5:14:20 PM ET 2007-03-16T21:14:20

Certain hurricane forecasts could be up to 16 percent less accurate if a key weather satellite that is already beyond its expected lifetime fails, the National Hurricane Center's new director said Friday.

Bill Proenza said replacing the satellite would take at least four years even if the estimated $400 million cost were available immediately. The so-called "QuikScat" device lets forecasters measure basics such as wind speed.

Proenza told The Associated Press that both two- and three-day forecasts would be affected. Without the satellite providing key data, longer stretches of coastline would have to be placed under warnings.

Proenza, 62, also discussed concern for funding scientific research, saying he believes hundreds of millions of dollars more money is needed to better understand storms.

At the same time, he strongly opposed a proposal to close any of the National Weather Service's 122 offices around the nation or have them operate part time, saying "weather certainly doesn't take a holiday."

Proenza took over one of meteorology's most highly visible posts in January. Max Mayfield had held the top spot for six years.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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