Science

Satellite predicts eruption

Japan volcano

Mount Sakurajima, photographed by NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite. (NOAA image)

One of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's satellites detected the Aug. 18 eruption of Japan's Mount Sakurajima 14 hours before it occurred, according to a statement from the weather agency.

The satellite – the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) – pinpointed heat from the volcano while on one of its 14 daily orbits around the Earth using its Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor. Half a day after the satellite detected the thermal buildup, the volcano erupted, sending an ash plume three miles into the air.

Technically speaking, Suomi NPP is the first in the government's $13 billion next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) fleet. It's really just a converted demonstration satellite launched in 2011 in hopes of mitigating a gap in polar-orbiting satellite coverage.

VIRS instrument

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite sensor that allowed the satellite to predict the volcanic eruption.

While its sibling satellites – the first of which will not be operational until 2017 – will have far more powerful technical capabilities and instrumentation, detecting a volcanic eruption before it happens is proof that Suomi NPP has some cool features of its own.

 "VIIRS continues to show new and remarkable capabilities that will enable scientists to better understand the Earth – from the land to the highest levels of the atmosphere," said Dr. Chris Elvidge, head of the Earth Observation Group of NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colo.

VIIRS will be included in the JPSS-1 and JPSS-2, which are expected to be operational in 2017 and 2022, respectively. JPSS represents the next generation of polar-orbiting satellites that will have an increased role in weather prediction.

Note: This story was updated on Aug. 26 to correct projected date of operation for JPSS-2. 

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

Rising Stars

Meet 21 early-career leaders who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton

    SEC owns up to 2016 breach

    A key database of financial information was breached in 2016, possibly in support of insider trading, said the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DOD looks to get aggressive about cloud adoption

    Defense leaders and Congress are looking to encourage more aggressive cloud policies and prod reluctant agencies to embrace experimentation and risk-taking.

  • Shutterstock / Pictofigo

    The next big thing in IT procurement

    Steve Kelman talks to the agencies that have embraced tech demos in their acquisition efforts -- and urges others in government to give it a try.

  • broken lock

    DHS bans Kaspersky from federal systems

    The Department of Homeland Security banned the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab’s products from federal agencies in a new binding operational directive.

  • man planning layoffs

    USDA looks to cut CIOs as part of reorg

    The Department of Agriculture is looking to cut down on the number of agency CIOs in the name of efficiency and better communication across mission areas.

  • What's next for agency cyber efforts?

    Ninety days after the Trump administration's executive order, FCW sat down with agency cyber leaders to discuss what’s changing.

Reader comments

Mon, Aug 26, 2013

Way cool

Mon, Aug 26, 2013

I'm impressed that the eruption was detected with enough time for people to be evacuated from the area. The question I have is: Did anyone notify Japan quickly enough (or at all) so they could react in time?

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group