Launch of Polar-Orbiting Satellite Will Improve Weather, Climate Forecasting
October 28, 2011 • 2:59PM

The U.S. polar-orbiting weather and climate NPP satellite was successfully launched this morning from California. NPP has been designed as a bridge between the Earth-observing satellites that are operating today, which are reaching the end of their design lives, and the cutting-edge Joint Polar Satellite System, which will be ready for launch in 2016, IF enough money is budgeted.

NASA's current fleet of large Earth remoting sensing research satellites — Terra, Aqua, and Aura — were launched in 1999, 2002, and 2004, respectively. They are research satellites, designed mainly to test new sensors, and although the data they have provided have been used for practical applications, they are not designed to be operational.

NPP will orbit the Earth from pole to pole, providing information from the entire surface of the globe, twice a day. Its suite of instruments will take measurements in the microwave, infrared, and optical wavelengths. Data will include of Earth's ice cover, ocean ecosystems, volcanic ash plumes, land and sea surface temperatures, atmospheric temperature and humidity, reflected solar radiation, and more. Scientists hope to be able to extend the forecast of extreme weather to a few days in advance. They have stressed the importance of this, as there were 10 extreme weather disasters so far this year, each with more than $1 billion in damages, and much loss of life.