New Spacecraft Should Improve Storm Forecasting

By Frank Morring, Jr.
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

November 26, 2012
Frank Morring, Jr. Goddard Space Flight Center

A new climate-study spacecraft just entering environmental test here is expected to sharpen weather-forecasting models in ways that would have given forecasters a better handle on the back-to-back storms that slammed the U.S. Mid-Atlantic coast this fall.

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, a U.S.-Japanese follow-on to the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM) launched 15 years ago by NASA and the precursor to the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will give unprecedented detail in its measurements of rainfall, snowfall and temperatures inside storms like Hurricane Sandy and the Nor’easter that followed it into New York Harbor and the New Jersey shore.

That, in turn, should allow meteorologists to tweak their computer models for better predictions of the track and intensity of violent storms. As has been the case with other weather-science instruments, there may be a future operational role for the sorts of data GPM will generate.

“If we demonstrate over the coming years after this thing is launched that, man, this thing is really helping in improving our ability to forecast snowstorms, that may bring to light a real need to have that type of system in an operational capacity,” says J. Marshall Shepherd, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Georgia who is president-elect of the American Meteorological Society. “From a hardware standpoint, ideally we’d really like to have these active radar-type systems in a geosynchronous satellite system.”

Read more: New Spacecraft Should Improve Storm Forecasting — Aviation Week & Space Technology.

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