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Weather Blog: New Satellite Could Yield Better Forecasts

by Gene Norman / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on October 28, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 8:16 AM

We'd all like to see better forecasts, right? While great strides have been made in the computer models that I use to forecast the weather, none of those models are any good if they don't know what is happening before the models run. That is going to change, thanks to the launch of a new weather satellite called NPP. The bus-sized satellite streaked into orbit today atop an Atlas rocket in the pre-dawn hours at California's Vandenberg Air Force base. Eventually settling into a 500 mile orbit above the earth, NPP's five new instruments will see the world like never before.

Today, I spoke with NOAA Deputy Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan about the value of NPP.  She told me that new data from NPP's state-of-the-art instruments will be fed into computer models run by the weather service.  That could improve both the short-term forecast as well as long term understanding of climate change. In particular, she said, the instruments aboard NPP will help analyze the vertical structure of the atmosphere with more precision than is currently available.  Understanding the location and strength of various atmospheric parameters is key because they drive the dynamic properties of storms.
 
When it comes to hurricanes, NPP will aid in the analyzing the structure of the atmosphere around developing storms, where there currently isn't any data.  That could help improve the accuracy of the 3 to 5 day track of hurricanes as well as aid in improving the intensity forecast.
 
NPP will begin sending back data in the next three months and could begin regularly contributing data into the daily computer models that I use here at KHOU within a year.
 

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