June 13 2017

Annual Initiative, Focus Area and Project Review

Many people think that weather satellites measure rainfall, but in fact satellites record environmental data, including cloud top temperature and water vapor, and advanced models then turn them into anticipated rain and snowfall rates.

The process of transforming raw satellite data into useful products is complex and always being improved by the JPSS Proving Ground and Risk Reduction (PGRR) team, which recently completed the 2017 PGRR Project Review, held May 23-25 at the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Maryland.

Established in 2012, PGRR represents the bridge between the technical and societal aspects of JPSS. Its primary objective is to enhance user applications of Suomi NPP/JPSS data, algorithms and products. The PGRR team connects different levels of the NOAA network: from systems to services to stakeholders, to enhance communication, engagement and satisfaction.

To accomplish this, the PGRR team focused on topics including hydrology, river ice and flooding, the arctic, oceans and coasts, fires and smoke. The program also maximizes the use of JPSS data through training and innovation. The team is comprised of JPSS scientists and engineers as well as members of the end-user communities such as the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecasting Offices and the National Ocean Services. These users play a critical role in providing feedback on the utility and quality of the data. They also meet regularly to discuss current applications of JPSS data and how to improve them, and then smaller application- focused groups evaluate how to make implement those changes.

The JPSS Program established a comprehensive review process for the initiatives which is critical to provide effective oversight of PGRR efforts. May’s multi-day event included presentations from seven initiatives as well as 14 dedicated focus areas and key projects. Each group presented their objectives, key milestones, user engagement strategies and status and significant accomplishments. Review teams and evaluation criteria were established and reviewers were selected based on their technical expertise. Review teams worked together to combine their feedback into a single set of remarks to be provided to the project teams.

Keys to the success of the PGRR efforts.
Keys to the success of the PGRR efforts.


From this review it was clear that the PGRR program has demonstrated several successes helping NWS users to leverage JPSS capabilities to support key areas including weather, fires and flooding. River ice is a significant threat in Alaska where ice can dam and flood a river quickly. PGRR products are used to track ice and flooding conditions in this area and proved valuable in helping residents respond to a flooding event on the Yukon River in May 2013 and have been in use during Alaskan Spring ice break-up ever since. Additionally, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers used JPSS data in their decision making in response to Midwest flooding in January 2016 and March 2017.

The Fire and Smoke Initiative described how they were able to build on their success evaluating products during the Fort McMurray fire in Alberta, Canada in May 2016. VIIRS imagery was able to help differentiate the fire line from the city lights of Fort McMurray. VIIRS Day/Night Band imagery showed the fire progression in consecutive nights and how the smoke was moving into the continental US. The team used its visualization products to show at what levels the smoke was present and its fire model to project the smoke’s movement. These capabilities are now available for fire weather support personnel in Alaska and the NWS Western Region as they prepare for their 2017 fire seasons.

Smoke from the Fort McMurray fire was swept up into a cyclonic spin over northern Canada.
Smoke from the Fort McMurray fire was swept up into a cyclonic spin over northern Canada.


In addition to the NWS, the National Ocean Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service also benefit from JPSS data products. For example, sea surface temperature is a critical measurement for coral reefs and is measured twice daily for the entire globe by the VIIRS instrument. This data product, as well as ocean color and nighttime maps, helps us protect the health of the marine environment on short- and long-term timescales. Ocean and coastal products from JPSS were well received by reviewers for these projects.

Polar-orbiting satellites provide data that is both scientifically interesting and beneficial to society. The JPSS program helps NOAA serve society by providing important weather and environmental monitoring capabilities and supporting the development of a ”Weather-Ready Nation.” The periodic review of these projects have proven to be critical in the road to ensure the long-term success of the PGRR initiatives.