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 Kyiv: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins 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.
Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Weeki
X
August 29, 2014 2:18 AM
The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid