News / Science & Technology

NASA Hails New Earth-Observing Satellite as 'Our Planet's Lifeguard'

NPP inside a clean room at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California
NPP inside a clean room at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California

Did you wonder this morning whether you should pack an umbrella before leaving home?  Or whether ultraviolet rays or air quality issues might pose particular problems, if you had to be outside all afternoon?   For some, these questions might have been more serious - whether wildfires or floods were going to spread to your town, for example.  

The information to answer questions like these comes from above.  And researchers are expecting big things from NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite. A bus-sized box of instruments that will orbit some 800 kilometers above the Earth is expected to help everyday people and scientists make some important decisions.  NASA's newest environmental satellite is known as the NPP (National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project), launched from California on Friday, October 28.


Ken Schwer is the NPP project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.  

"With climate studies, enhanced weather forecasting, and monitoring of critical events, NPP's bumper sticker could read 'NPP - Our Planet's Lifeguard,'" he told reporters at a pre-launch briefing.

NASA says the NPP will orbit the Earth about 14 times a day, and it will observe almost the entire surface of the planet.  The 2,100 kilogram spacecraft carries five key instruments that will monitor atmospheric moisture and air pressure, Earth's ozone levels and radiation, and collect visible and infrared views of wildfires, land changes and ice sheet movement.   

Weather vs climate

Jim Gleason is the NPP project scientist based at Goddard.  Gleason says the NPP is the first mission designed to provide observations for weather forecasters and climate researchers.

Gleason notes that weather is about conditions in the near future, while climate is about weather patterns over long periods of time.    

"It's incredibly valuable to try to understand what the future environment may bring, and the future environment is as much about tomorrow's weather as it is long-term climate change," said Gleason.

Gleason is particularly interested in the Earth's ozone layer.  He says new data will help scientists evaluate the effectiveness of policies that were adopted in the 1980s to reduce the levels of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere.

Mitch Goldberg, a scientist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, says his agency's last weather satellite was launched in 2009 and has a three-year life expectancy.

"The launch of NPP is critical for NOAA and NASA, for the United States and for the international community," Goldberg said.  "NPP represents a bridge from current NOAA operational and NASA research satellites to the future operational platforms known as the Joint Polar Satellite System, JPSS.  And it will provide essential and improved atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial observations for many different applications."

NPP has a five-year mission life, and it will bridge the gap until the JPSS is launched in 2015.  

Extreme weather

Scientists say NPP will improve forecasting of extreme events five to seven days in advance and its instruments will become the foundations of a global observing system.  

Mitch Goldberg works as a JPSS program scientist.  

"Forecasts are used to make decisions in order to save lives, mitigate property loss, and make millions of day-to-day and longer term decisions across all economic sectors affected by weather, such as transportation, agriculture, construction, energy and tourism," explained Goldberg.  "In 2011 alone [in the United States], there have been 10 separate weather events, each inflicting at least $1 billion in damages, including tornado outbreaks, fires, hurricanes, floods and blizzards.  NPP will provide improved information to forecasters and emergency managers to better warn and prepare the public for severe weather events."     

Goldberg says the satellite will also be used to track ash plumes from volcanic eruptions to help ensure aviation safety.  It will monitor fire- and drought-risk conditions, and map vegetation - all of which are important to food security.  It will measure variations in land ice, sea ice and glaciers to quantify changes in the global climate.  And it will detect harmful algae blooms that could threaten fisheries, coastal eco-systems and people's respiratory health.   

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid