NewsFebruary 27, 2014

New Satellite to Improve Climate and Weather Forecasts

Brian Kahn

By Brian Kahn

Follow @blkahn

An artist's rendering of NASA's new Global Precipitation Monitoring Core Observatory and partner satellites orbiting the Earth.
Credit: NASA


In T-minus a few hours, global precipitation monitoring will receive a major upgrade. NASA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency are launching a revolutionary new satellite on Thursday afternoon that will provide important new data on precipitation, which will in turn help improve climate and weather forecasts.

The new satellite is dubbed the Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory (GPM). Its name is fairly self-explanatory: the satellite will provide detailed rain and snow observations every 3 hours and even give scientists an ‘x-ray’ view of the inside of clouds. The advanced technologies used should also provide more accurate measurements and help calibrate a host of other partner satellites currently in orbit.RELATEDThe Year in Weather Like Never Seen Before
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The data GPM collects will ultimately help paint a more complete picture of Earth’s precipitation. That’s because our current monitoring system tells only part of the story about where, when, and how much rain and snow fall across the planet.

In addition to satellites, rain gauges are spread all around the world. Yet if they were lined up in rows next to each other, they would only take up as much space as two basketball courts according to NASA. No, not a basketball arena like New York’s Madison Square Garden. Just two of your average playground courts.

While the data the satellites provide is crucial, it doesn’t show how much precipitation falls in all locations or how storms evolve and move. By filling in those gaps with the improved data, scientists can improve weather and seasonal climate forecasts. The satellite could also provide valuable real-time information about the intensity and track of large storms like Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines last year. That information would be a boon to disaster managers trying to make accurate and timely decisions.

Climate change predictions will also get an upgrade as scientists will be able to better monitor how the water cycle is shifting. Precipitation patterns are already shifting around the globe and scientists will be better able to track those changes and improve climate models.

You can watch the preparation for and the actual launch on the live feed below starting at noon ET.

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