Thursday, October 13, 2011
NASA to Launch New Satellite to Track Earth's Weather, Climate
A new NASA satellite that will be the first geared at observing key aspects of both Earth's climate and its weather is slated for launch on Oct. 27, the space agency announced today. The National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) is the first mission designed to collect critical data to improve weather forecasts in the short-term and increase our understanding of long-term climate change.
NPP's five science instruments, including four new state-of-the-art sensors, will provide scientists with data to extend more than 30 key data records that have been kept for decades by a cadre of Earth-observing satellites. These records, which range from the ozone layer and land cover to atmospheric temperatures and ice cover, are critical for understanding and predicting changes in global climate.
"NPP's observations of a wide range of interconnected Earth properties and processes will give us the big picture of how our planet changes," said Jim Gleason, NPP project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
"That will help us improve our computer models that predict future environmental conditions," Gleason added. "Better predictions will let us make better decisions, whether it is as simple as taking an umbrella to work today or as complex as responding to a changing climate."
Meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will incorporate NPP data into their weather prediction models to produce forecasts and warnings that will help emergency responders anticipate, monitor and react to many types of natural disasters.
"The timing of the NPP launch could hardly be more appropriate," said Louis W. Uccellini, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs, Md. "With the many billion dollar weather disasters in 2011, NPP data is critical for accurate weather forecasts into the future."