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Satellite is a breath of fresh AIRS

first_imgScientists are also using its data to understand how vast African dust storms that cross the Atlantic impact hurricane intensity, said Jason Dunion of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Research Division. AIRS data is combined with observations from the hurricane tracking planes and from the dust-detecting laser aboard another A-Train satellite, CALIPSO, to provide meteorologists with the information they need to fine tune their hurricane prediction models. Another tool for perfecting the all-important models meteorologists use for their forecasts is CALIPSO’s sister CloudSat, which was launched from the same rocket in 2006. Deborah Vane, the satellite’s deputy principle investigator at JPL, said its ability to see clouds and precipitation in three dimensions has highlighted places where forecasting models and real observations didn’t match up. But for now, CloudSat still is somewhat limited in its impact. “It’s like looking through a soda straw down at the Earth,” Vane said. [email protected] (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4451160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! To study a cross section of the atmosphere, meteorologists relied – and largely continue to rely – on weather balloons. Twice a day, at 92 locations around the United States, Puerto Rico and the Pacific, the National Weather Service still releases balloons loaded with pressure, temperature and humidity monitors into the sky. But now some of the newest members of a string of satellites known as the Afternoon Constellation, or the A-Train, are going one step better. Leading the A-Train is a satellite called Aqua, with its powerful instrument AIRS, the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder. AIRS’ specialty is creating a three-dimensional map of temperature and water vapor. Since its 2002 launch, researchers have put AIRS’ real-time data to use and soon found it improved six-day forecasts by a full six hours. “That may not sound like much, but when you’re talking about airline forecasting and about farming, it makes a big difference,” Fetzer said. PASADENA – Things are looking sunny for meteorologists. Long the butt of jokes for their forecasting shortcomings, in recent years they have made significant improvements to their predictions with the help of some of Earth’s newest satellite observers. “What you really need to make a better forecast is a better picture of the current situation,” said Eric Fetzer, an atmospheric scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Ca ada Flintridge. Though weather satellites have watched the planet for four decades, until recently they were limited to peering at the tops of clouds, not into their depths. last_img read more

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