NASA helps take the "whether" out of weather
- NEW NASA DATA HELP TAKE "WHETHER" OUT OF WEATHER PREDICTION
Your weatherperson's job just got a little easier, thanks to new data
available from advanced weather instruments aboard NASA's Aqua
The new data are the most accurate, highest-resolution measurements
ever taken from space of the infrared brightness (radiance) of Earth's
atmosphere. This information can be used to make more accurate
predictions of weather and climate.
The data come from two microwave sounding instruments that are part of
the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) experiment: the Atmospheric
Infrared Sounder and the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit.
With its visible, infrared and microwave detectors, the AIRS
experiment provides a three-dimensional look at Earth's weather.
Working in tandem, its instruments can make simultaneous observations
from space all the way to Earth's surface, even in the presence of
heavy clouds. With more than 2,400 channels sensing different regions
of the atmosphere, the system creates a global, three-dimensional map
of atmospheric temperature and humidity. AIRS provides information
about clouds, greenhouse gases and many other atmospheric phenomena.
"The AIRS experiment is demonstrating high sensitivity and accuracy,"
said Dr. Moustafa Chahine, science team leader at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., which manages the
experiment. "Meteorologists around the world have been eagerly
awaiting the availability of this processed AIRS data, and are already
reporting measurable increases in the accuracy of their short-term
weather predictions. NASA and the world's weather prediction agencies
can also use AIRS experiment data to better track severe weather
events, like hurricanes," he said.
Scientists from various organizations echoed Chahine's
* Dr. Tony McNally, of the European Center for Mid-range Weather
Forecasts in Reading, England, reported the use of AIRS data resulted
in "a small but consistent positive impact on forecast quality in all
* Dr. Hank Revercomb, director of the Space Science and Engineering
Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, called the experiment,
"a virtual gold mine of information."
* Dr. Louis Ucellini, director of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental
Prediction (NCEP), said adopting data from the AIRS experiment is "our
number one priority."
Chahine said more advanced data products are expected to become
available later this year. The data will include atmospheric
temperature and humidity profiles, and additional environmental
measurements on various types of clouds, particularly the thin veil of
cirrus clouds that cover Earth. He also expects new data about
concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane,
carbon monoxide and volcanic sulfur dioxide.
NOAA is continuing to evaluate the new data, learning how to integrate
it and gaining confidence in its accuracy. When that process is
completed this summer, NOAA will begin integrating AIRS data into
existing weather-prediction models used by NCEP. Six of the world's
leading weather-prediction centers will do the same. The data will
also be distributed to the World Meteorological Organization in
Switzerland, where it will be available to 105 countries.
Aqua's planned six-year mission will collect data, using the six
onboard instruments, on global temperature variations, the cycling of
water, global precipitation, evaporation, changes in ocean
circulation, and how clouds and surface-water processes affect
climate. The information will help scientists better understand how
global ecosystems change, and how they respond to and affect global
environmental change. For more information about AIRS on the