A joint project by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and NASA may just make weather predictions more accurate than ever.
Chaotic as weather cycles seem to be, our weather satellites for the past few decades have been doing a pretty good job at more or less predicting the weather. A good chunk of the required data for these forecasts is average precipitation, which is just about the exact type of data that would be measured on a whole different level by JAXA and NASA’s newest precipitation satellite.
The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory was developed with a single goal in mind: to provide an even better and more accurate measure of our planet’s rainfall and snowfall levels. Using improved sensors and instruments, such as the microwave imager and dual-frequency precipitation radar, the satellite will scan worldwide precipitation at different frequencies, detect atmospheric ice and water at varied densities, and even provide more detailed measurements such as the average size of raindrops and snowflakes.
While the satellite’s objective may sound very simple, and even if other satellites have been doing more or less the same job for decades, the enhanced data that it would collect still have numerous vital applications in modern meteorology. Accurate rainfall data for example, is very important in agriculture, both due to its direct irrigation benefits and effect on fresh water availability.
But perhaps the more important use for the GPM Core Observatory satellite’s enhanced data would be the potential to provide a more accurate and detailed forecast of weather calamities and disasters. Instead of simply predicting the heading, speed and duration of an incoming hurricane, a more accurate estimate of the arriving storm’s precipitation level (based on previously observed data) could better warn the local citizens of anticipated flood levels. Critical areas of importance that might get struck by flood for example, could also benefit from the improved early warning data that the GPM Core Observatory satellite could provide.
The launch schedule for the GPM Core Observatory satellite is on February 27, 2014. It will be carried off by a standard Japanese H-IIA rocket, which will be launched from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center.