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Next-Generation Operational Global Earth Observations

Thomas F. Lee, Craig S. Nelson, Patrick Dills, Lars Peter Riishojgaard, Andy Jones, Li Li, Steven Miller, Lawrence E. Flynn, Gary Jedlovec, William McCarty, Carl Hoffman, and Gary McWilliams

The United States is merging its two polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite programs operated by the Department of Commerce and the Department of Defense into a single system, which is called the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). During the next decade, NPOESS will provide global operational data to meet many of the needs of weather forecasters, climate researchers, and global decision makers for remotely sensed Earth science data and global environmental monitoring. The NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) will be launched in 2011 as a precursor to NPOESS to reduce final development risks for NPOESS and to provide continuity of global imaging and atmospheric sounding data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Earth Observing System (EOS) missions. Beginning in 2014, NPOESS spacecraft will be launched into an afternoon orbit and in 2016 into an early-morning orbit to provide significantly improved operational capabilities and benefits to satisfy critical civil and national security requirements for space-based, remotely sensed environmental data. The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) Meteorological Operation (MetOp) spacecraft will complement NPOESS in a midmorning orbit. The joint constellation will provide global coverage with a data refresh rate of approximately four hours. NPOESS will observe more phenomena simultaneously from space and deliver a data volume significantly greater than its operational predecessors with substantially improved data delivery to users. Higher-resolution (spatial and spectral) and more accurate imaging and atmospheric sounding data will enable improvements in short- to medium-range weather forecasts. Multispectral and hyperspectral instruments on NPOESS will provide global imagery and sounding products useful to the forecaster that are complementary to those available from geostationary satellites. NPOESS will support the operational needs of meteorological, oceanographic, environmental, climatic, and space environmental remote sensing programs and provide continuity of data for climate researchers. This article that describes NPOESS was completed and accepted for publication prior to the White House decision in February 2010 ordering a major restructuring of the NPOESS program. The Department of Commerce will now assume primary responsibility for the afternoon polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite orbit and the Department of Defense will take primary responsibility for the early morning orbit. However, NPP, as described in this article, is still scheduled to be launched in 2011. Several of the instruments and program elements described in this article are also likely to be carried forward into future U.S. polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite missions.

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Andrew L. Molthan, Lori A. Schultz, Kevin M. McGrath, Jason E. Burks, J. Parks Camp, Kelsey Angle, Jordan R. Bell, and Gary J. Jedlovec


Severe weather events including tornadoes, damaging winds, hail, and their combination produce changes in land surface vegetation and urban settings that are frequently observed through remote sensing. Capabilities continue to improve through a growing constellation of governmental and commercial assets, increasing the spatial resolution of visible, near to shortwave infrared, and thermal infrared remote sensing. Here, we highlight cases where visual interpretation of imagery benefitted severe weather damage assessments made within the NOAA/NWS Damage Assessment Toolkit. Examples demonstrate utility of imagery in assessing tracks and changes in remote areas where staffing limitations or access prevent a ground-based assessment.

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Andrew L. Molthan, Lori A. Schultz, Kevin M. McGrath, Jason E. Burks, J. Parks Camp, Kelsey Angle, Jordan R. Bell, and Gary J. Jedlovec
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Steven J. Goodman, James Gurka, Mark DeMaria, Timothy J. Schmit, Anthony Mostek, Gary Jedlovec, Chris Siewert, Wayne Feltz, Jordan Gerth, Renate Brummer, Steven Miller, Bonnie Reed, and Richard R. Reynolds

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R series (GOES-R) Proving Ground engages the National Weather Service (NWS) forecast, watch, and warning community and other agency users in preoperational demonstrations of the new and advanced capabilities to be available from GOES-R compared to the current GOES constellation. GOES-R will provide significant advances in observing capabilities but will also offer a significant challenge to ensure that users are ready to exploit the new 16-channel imager that will provide 3 times more spectral information, 4 times the spatial coverage, and 5 times the temporal resolution compared to the current imager. In addition, a geostationary lightning mapper will provide continuous and near-uniform real-time surveillance of total lightning activity throughout the Americas and adjacent oceans encompassing much of the Western Hemisphere. To ensure user readiness, forecasters and other users must have access to prototype advanced products within their operational environment well before launch. Examples of the advanced products include improved volcanic ash detection, lightning detection, 1-min-interval rapid-scan imagery, dust and aerosol detection, and synthetic cloud and moisture imagery. A key component of the GOES-R Proving Ground is the two-way interaction between the researchers who introduce new products and techniques and the forecasters who then provide feedback and ideas for improvements that can best be incorporated into NOAA's integrated observing and analysis operations. In 2012 and beyond, the GOES-R Proving Ground will test and validate display and visualization techniques, decision aids, future capabilities, training materials, and the data processing and product distribution systems to enable greater use of these products in operational settings.

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Cynthia Rosenzweig, Radley M. Horton, Daniel A. Bader, Molly E. Brown, Russell DeYoung, Olga Dominguez, Merrilee Fellows, Lawrence Friedl, William Graham, Carlton Hall, Sam Higuchi, Laura Iraci, Gary Jedlovec, Jack Kaye, Max Loewenstein, Thomas Mace, Cristina Milesi, William Patzert, Paul W. Stackhouse Jr., and Kim Toufectis

A partnership between Earth scientists and institutional stewards is helping the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) prepare for a changing climate and growing climate-related vulnerabilities. An important part of this partnership is an agency-wide Climate Adaptation Science Investigator (CASI) Workgroup. CASI has thus far initiated 1) local workshops to introduce and improve planning for climate risks, 2) analysis of climate data and projections for each NASA Center, 3) climate impact and adaptation toolsets, and 4) Center-specific research and engagement.

Partnering scientists with managers aligns climate expertise with operations, leveraging research capabilities to improve decision-making and to tailor risk assessment at the local level. NASA has begun to institutionalize this ongoing process for climate risk management across the entire agency, and specific adaptation strategies are already being implemented.

A case study from Kennedy Space Center illustrates the CASI and workshop process, highlighting the need to protect launch infrastructure of strategic importance to the United States, as well as critical natural habitat. Unique research capabilities and a culture of risk management at NASA may offer a pathway for other organizations facing climate risks, promoting their resilience as part of community, regional, and national strategies.

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F. Martin Ralph, Janet Intrieri, David Andra Jr., Robert Atlas, Sid Boukabara, David Bright, Paula Davidson, Bruce Entwistle, John Gaynor, Steve Goodman, Jiann-Gwo Jiing, Amy Harless, Jin Huang, Gary Jedlovec, John Kain, Steven Koch, Bill Kuo, Jason Levit, Shirley Murillo, Lars Peter Riishojgaard, Timothy Schneider, Russell Schneider, Travis Smith, and Steven Weiss

Test beds have emerged as a critical mechanism linking weather research with forecasting operations. The U.S. Weather Research Program (USWRP) was formed in the 1990s to help identify key gaps in research related to major weather prediction problems and the role of observations and numerical models. This planning effort ultimately revealed the need for greater capacity and new approaches to improve the connectivity between the research and forecasting enterprise.

Out of this developed the seeds for what is now termed “test beds.” While many individual projects, and even more broadly the NOAA/National Weather Service (NWS) Modernization, were successful in advancing weather prediction services, it was recognized that specific forecast problems warranted a more focused and elevated level of effort. The USWRP helped develop these concepts with science teams and provided seed funding for several of the test beds described.

Based on the varying NOAA mission requirements for forecasting, differences in the organizational structure and methods used to provide those services, and differences in the state of the science related to those forecast challenges, test beds have taken on differing characteristics, strategies, and priorities. Current test bed efforts described have all emerged between 2000 and 2011 and focus on hurricanes (Joint Hurricane Testbed), precipitation (Hydrometeorology Testbed), satellite data assimilation (Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation), severe weather (Hazardous Weather Testbed), satellite data support for severe weather prediction (Short-Term Prediction Research and Transition Center), mesoscale modeling (Developmental Testbed Center), climate forecast products (Climate Testbed), testing and evaluation of satellite capabilities [Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) Proving Ground], aviation applications (Aviation Weather Testbed), and observing system experiments (OSSE Testbed).

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