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Combining Satellite Data for Tropics Forecasts

The Atlantic Hurricane Season is now underway, and this year we will be getting some added assistance in our forecasts from thousands of miles above us!

Last June, a group of six small satellites were put into orbit to gather information on our atmosphere and weather. The Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate, or simply COSMIC-2, gathers data which we as meteorologists can use to help aid in our forecasting.

“The critical atmospheric data from COSMIC-2, along with information from polar-orbiting satellites NOAA and its international partners operate, will go a long way toward improving the accuracy of our forecasts and reduce the harmful impacts on lives, property, and economies,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction.

[COSMIC-2 spacecraft image. From NOAA]

Hurricane forecast models will now use a large combination of the information coming in from different groups of satellites.  This includes data from COSMIC-2, the Joint Polar Satellite System, the European Metop spacecraft, NOAA’s next-generation geostationary satellites (GOES-16 and GOES-17), and Japan’s Himawari-8.

“COSMIC-2, along with our advanced geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites, underscores NOAA’s commitment to putting the best and smartest satellite technologies in orbit to protect lives and property through improved weather prediction,” said Steve Volz, Ph.D., director, NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

According to NOAA, the COSMIC-2 satellites use a technique called radio occultation, which collects signals from Global Navigation Satellite Systems (including the U.S. Global Positioning System or GPS) that are “bent” as they travel through the Earth’s atmosphere. The bent signal indicates the information about the distribution of temperature, pressure, and moisture content of the atmosphere, knowledge which will improve the accuracy of weather forecasts, including forecasts of hurricanes and other major storms.

“New satellite observations feeding into our weather forecast models will enhance our predictive capabilities for tropical storms and hurricanes,” said Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D, director, NOAA’s National Weather Service.  “High-resolution wind vector data along with moisture measurements will give us more and better information about the conditions that strengthen or weaken these storms.”

One of the biggest goals is always to help provide enough lead time for you to prepare ahead of the storm, both as it’s developing and once it poses a threat to land.  By using this vast amount of satellite data, this will help assist in issuing warnings for tropical storms and hurricanes.

“We don’t want to have people leaving areas that they don’t actually have to leave or have emergency managers and emergency supplies deployed to places other than where they’re needed most,” said Jim Yoe, Ph.D, chief administrative officer, Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation at NOAA.  “By having that longest lead time possible, both from our global model and the hurricane model, we hope to make that information as accurate and relevant as possible with the longest time possible to prepare.”

About the author
Meredith is a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist as designated by the American Meteorological Society.  She was born and raised in Cleveland but has worked from coast to coast covering almost every type of weather.  Meredith is a weather, space, and STEM journalist and has been live out in the field during destructive tropical storms on the Gulf Coast of Florida, raging wildfires in Southern Cali... Load Morefornia, and covered the wreckage from tornadoes in the Great Plains. In 2009, she reported on the damaging hail storm during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and in 2017, the historic California winter storms that produced record rain totals and devastating flash flooding.  Prior to joining WeatherNation, Meredith worked at KEYT/KKFX in Santa Barbara, CA, KOTA-TV in Rapid City, SD, WWSB-TV in Sarasota, FL, and began her career as an intern at WGN-TV in Chicago.  She was Santa Barbara's "Favorite Weathercaster of the Year" in 2016 and the Community Partner of the Year in 2017 for her volunteer work with Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties and awarded with the 2018 Valparaiso University Alumni Association First Decade Achievement Award. Meredith is the current chair of the American Meteorological Society's Station Scientist Committee, which focuses on raising greater awareness & outreach when it comes to science education for viewers.  She's also an accomplished journalist, producing weather and science stories including rocket launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the new GOES-16 satellite and it's impacts on weather forecasting.  Meredith was personally invited by NASA's Johnson Space Center to interview astronauts on the International Space Station and was the only meteorologist in the nation to do an exclusive report accompanying the GOES-West satellite from Colorado to Florida, reporting on and covering it's launch in 2018.  Meredith's also worked on features that took her paragliding along the coast, white water rafting in Northern California, learning to surf in the Pacific Ocean, and how to be an aerial photographer while flying a single engine plane! Say hi on Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn!