- How the Machines see our planet. (NOAA/NASA)
Woop, woop! Topper Shutt in the house! DingDingDing... Veronica Johnson alarm going off! But first....
As you may have heard, the U.S. government will soon be adding another line of weather-observing satellites to supplement the Aura, Terra and Aqua spacecraft that patrol the atmospheric comings and goings of the planet. The goal is to beef up NASA's fleet of older satellites with young robot blood, as well as broaden the scope of the government's environmental duties: These next-gen probes will help with both daily weather forecasting as well as monitoring the effects of climate change.
The first satellite, called the NPP, or NPOESS Preparatory Project, NPOESS standing for National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, which is now referred to as the Joint Polar Satellite System, or JPSS... OK, I'll just stop now, and you can decide whether you want to read more about the labyrinthian organizational structure of this program. Anyway, this first "test" satellite has a tentative launch date in late October. The StormWatch 7 blog will be revisiting this wondrous machinery in detail when it gets closer to liftoff time, but for now here's an opportunity to learn why these new satellites are so important. (Important, but over budget and expensive, and some people aren't happy about that.)
A big chunk of their worth is because they'll deploy an advanced observational system known as the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite that provides significant advantages over the old warhorse, MODIS, that allowed anyone in the world to get instant access to near real-time space views of their 'hoods. (Check it out.) What, exactly, is VIIRS? Why, it's an ozone-hole-studying, temperature-taking, moisture-sensing, reflective-energy-judging miracle device that would have Al Gore crumping with joy! But I'll let the experts do the talking.
Below, find a short NASA movie that runs down the purpose of these upgraded sensors. Then continue on for another video with a few of D.C.'s TV meteorologists giving their take on the satellites of the future. Bob and Doug, are you in the sequel?