Why are polar satellites and the JPSS Program important?
JPSS (Joint Polar Satellite System) is the Nation's next generation of polar-orbiting environmental operational satellites. Polar satellites are critical for forecasts beyond 48 hours and increase the accuracy of forecasts three to seven days in advance of a severe weather event like a hurricane or snowstorm. These early warnings enable emergency managers to make timely decisions to protect American lives and property, including ordering effective evacuations. Moreover, JPSS is the only viable national satellite program currently in production that ensures continuity of observational data at the quality levels needed to sustain current weather forecasts beyond 2017.
Without NOAA's JPSS satellites on-orbit, the lost data would lead to less accurate and timely NOAA's National Weather Service numerical weather prediction models that are needed to support weather forecasting, thereby placing lives, property and critical infrastructure in danger.
JPSS provides continuity of Earth's key observations, including vast oceans, clouds, ozone, snow, ice, vegetation and atmosphere—ensuring a continuous series of global weather data. JPSS will have advanced technologies to improve current capabilities, further advancing weather and climate science and services. Lastly, information from JPSS supports every area of NOAA's mission, including supporting healthy coasts, resilient coastal communities, adapting and mitigating climate change and a more "Weather-Ready Nation."
What impacts do NOAA satellites have on the economy?
NOAA's polar satellites are critical to the nation's infrastructure and economy. Polar satellites provide critical weather forecasting for the $700 billion maritime commerce sector and offer a value of hundreds of millions of dollars for the fishing industry. The satellites provide critical information for drought forecasts. Drought impacts alone are the greatest natural hazard—estimated to be $6-8 billion annually in the United States—and occur primarily in agriculture, transportation, recreation and tourism, forestry and energy sectors. NOAA satellites can also observe volcanic eruptions and track the movement of ash clouds—at a value of $100 to $200 million to the aviation industry.
Who uses polar satellite data?
- Emergency Responders: When fighting wildfires, emergency responders rely on NOAA's polar satellites to understand weather conditions and identify "hot spots" in order to deploy first responders and resources. While geostationary satellites provide 4-8 km resolution, polar satellites see the situation at a more detailed 1 km resolution via twice daily passes. In addition, each of the three polar satellites (NOAA, DoD, EUMETSAT) covers the globe twice per day, so without JPSS, fire fighters would have access to only four daily passes versus six. While typical geostationary weather satellites likes GOES see the weather within their domain, polar satellites are able to see the weather as it takes shape before reaching the coasts. Extratropical storms originate outside the tropics and generally move west to east across oceans and continents.
- Aviation Industry: Monitoring ash clouds are critical to aviation safety as evidenced by the round-the-globe disruption to the industry during the Icelandic volcanic eruption in spring 2010. While airports shut down for a few days, they were eventually able to re-route flights thanks to NOAA satellite information thus saving millions of dollars in delayed and canceled flights.
- Maritime Transportation: Cargo and cruise ships at sea carrying billions of dollars' worth of goods and millions of passengers would not be possible with today's accuracy. The average expected annual losses to container shipping (lost containers and damage to vessels) in the absence of good information about extratropical storm conditions is in the order of $250 million per year in the North Pacific and $120 million per year in the North Atlantic. The average expected annual losses to bulk shipping operations from Nor'easters, blizzards and low-pressure rain storms in these regions are $150 million per year.
- Agriculture: Farmers rely on polar satellites for drought, extreme temperature and length of growing season information to plan their plantings and determine which type of crop to grow. Drought impacts alone are the greatest natural hazard—estimated to be $6-8 billion annually in the United States—and occur primarily in agriculture, transportation, recreation and tourism, forestry and energy sectors. The 1999 drought, for example, led to farm net income losses of approximately $1.35 billion.
- Coastal Residents: Residents living along the coasts rely on the most accurate forecasts possible with as much warning as possible. Less accurate, false and conflicting forecasts lead to inefficient evacuations and the unnecessary loss of life and property. Without polar observations, 3-7 days' advance warning of extreme events would significantly diminish. That means severe repercussions for coastal locations and marine transportation, more expensive (at least $1 million per mile) and less strategic evacuations and issues with understanding storm surge potential and flood potential.
Do polar satellites play a role in climate monitoring?
Yes. The international climate record is used to help scientists predict potential high impact events and allow emergency managers to activate life-saving plans. Beyond climate research and prediction, global sea surface temperature measurements, volcanic eruption monitoring, forest fire detection, global vegetation analysis, ozone hole monitoring and other applications are benefited by polar satellite data.
What does NOAA's polar satellite constellation look like?
NOAA's polar constellation currently consists of two satellites on-orbit and two more satellites in development. The NOAA-19 satellite was launched in 2009, and the NOAA/NASA Suomi-NPP Satellite was launched in 2011. The JPSS-1 spacecraft is scheduled for launch in 2017, and the JPSS-2 satellite is planned for 2021. In addition, NOAA's polar satellites, the United States Department of Defense DMSP constellation, and Europe's EUMETSAT constellation work in concert with NOAA's satellites to create a collection of data that gives scientists a full view of the globe- including the poles. There are approximately six passes over any one particular spot on the globe each day. This is particularly important for changing situations such as fast-moving hurricanes and wildfires.