Panel of leading meteorologists cite wide-ranging benefits, from improved data for predicting weather to aiding relief workers
Raytheon Company's (RTN) Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite was the focus of a high-profile panel discussion at this week's annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society. The consensus among the panel's meteorologists: VIIRS is opening up exciting new possibilities for weather and climate monitoring.
Commenting on VIIRS' unique day-night band, which enables the capture of highly detailed imagery in extremely low-light conditions, Steve Miller, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University's Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, said: "VIIRS allows us to use the moon as a surrogate for the sun, providing visibility into nighttime weather and atmospheric conditions with incredible detail never before possible. This makes it a very powerful asset for operational forecasting."
In addition to Miller, the panel -- which was moderated by Shaima Nasiri, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University -- included:
Mitchell Goldberg, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Joint Polar Satellite System
Kathleen Strabala, University of Wisconsin, Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies
Gary Jedlovec, Short-term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) Project, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
Thomas Lee, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
Lawrence Friedl, NASA Headquarters, Applied Sciences Program
VIIRS was launched into orbit aboard the Suomi NPP satellite in October 2011. Suomi NPP, a NASA-NOAA joint mission, is the precursor to a series of spacecraft that will make up the NOAA Joint Polar Satellite System, which is intended to provide critical weather and climate data for the next two decades.
Strabala of the University of Wisconsin enumerated the technological improvements encompassed in VIIRS over legacy systems, including increased scan distance and greater consistency in resolution across each image scan. As the scientific community continues to learn how to optimize its use of the VIIRS data, Strabala indicated one drawback to the system: "We only have one such instrument on orbit."
Jedlovec, SPoRT project lead at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., cited the critical role the VIIRS day-night band played in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. "The VIIRS nighttime imagery was provided to disaster relief agencies and allowed emergency teams to expedite their response to hurricane-ravaged areas," he said. "This unprecedented nighttime perspective was a huge help to relief organizations trying to measure the scope of impact."
NASA's Friedl noted that VIIRS is extending capabilities of current, aging satellites, and showed assessments of how VIIRS data on the atmosphere and oceans can support ongoing research and applications. "Data from VIIRS will support a wide range of uses built up over the past decade benefitting numerous economic sectors," he said.
Pointing to the ability to observe cloud formations, power outages, ship lights, smoke and volcanic ash plumes, and other nighttime phenomenon in such extraordinary detail, Colorado State's Miller said: "VIIRS gives us a new and improved way of observing the nocturnal environment by virtue of significant advancements in technology compared to legacy space systems. We've only scratched the surface of what we believe we can do with this technology."
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Note to Editors
VIIRS has made history by providing exciting new detailed images of Earth during the day, called Blue Marble; and at night, called Black Marble.