Weather satellites to deliver better data

Better weather forecasts may be on the way, but it's a long-term outlook.

A tri-agency program office led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric

Administration is preparing to test new weather satellite technology in

fiscal 2005 to help improve forecasts.

NASA plans to launch a satellite that will test three new technologies that

will help monitor the biology of the ocean, study how much of the sun's

energy is absorbed or reflected by the Earth, and collect additional temperature

and humidity data.

The enhanced capabilities, in combination with better numerical models that

process the data, should improve the accuracy of the current three- to five-day

weather forecasts from around 80 percent to better than 90 percent, said

Ghassem Asrar, associate administrator for Earth sciences at NASA, at a

briefing Wednesday. In addition, it should extend the current three- to

five-day forecasts out to seven to 10 days, he said.

Satellite data makes up 84 percent of the information that flows into numerical

models, which are the basis for making weather forecasts.

In 1994, President Clinton merged the military and civilian polar-orbiting

weather satellite programs, creating the National Polar-orbiting Operational

Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). NOAA, NASA and the Defense Department

formed a NPOESS Integrated Program Office to manage the new merged program.

The first converged weather satellite is expected to be available for launch

toward the end of fiscal 2008.

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