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Joint Polar Satellite System

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The First Images from NOAA-20 Are Here!

Launched November 18, 2017, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, JPSS-1 (now NOAA-20)—the first satellite of NOAA’s new Joint Polar Satellite System—has begun sending data to Earth. As the following images and text demonstrate, JPSS represents significant technological and scientific advancements in observations used for severe weather prediction and environmental monitoring.

NOAA-20 Provides New View of the North Pole

April 20, 2018

NOAA's newest polar-orbiting satellite, NOAA-20, captured this magnificent view of the Earth's North Pole on April 12, 2018. By passing over the pole 14 times a day, the satellite's VIIRS instrument was able to create this composite image of the planet, centered over the frozen Arctic, from 512 miles above Earth. The outline of the North American continent is visible at the bottom of the Earth's disk, while the Sahara Desert and northern Africa appear on the right hand side.

Scientists use the data from NOAA-20's VIIRS sensor to create the "true-color" imagery shown here. While true-color images appear to be simple photographs of Earth, they are actually created by combining data from the three color channels on the satellite's VIIRS instrument sensitive to the red, green and blue (or RGB) wavelengths of light into a single composite image.

As the backbone of the global satellite observing system, NOAA-20 circles the Earth from pole to pole and crosses the equator about 14 times daily, providing full global coverage twice a day. The satellite's instruments measure temperature, water vapor, ozone, precipitation, fire and volcanic eruptions, and can distinguish snow and ice cover under clouds. This data enables more accurate weather forecasting for the United States and the world.

The First Light Images from NOAA-20's CERES FM6 Earth-Observing Instrument Are Here!

January 17, 2018

In this shortwave image from CERES FM6, the white and green shades represent thick cloud cover reflecting incoming solar energy back to space. Compare that with the darker blue regions, which have no cloud cover, to get a sense for just how much clouds can affect the balance of incoming and outgoing energy on Earth. Credit: NASA

The covers on NOAA-20’s Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System Flight Model 6 (CERES FM6) opened Jan. 5, allowing it to scan Earth for the first time.

CERES FM6 was launched into space aboard NOAA-20 (formerly JPSS-1) on November 18, 2018, and is the last in a series of instruments going back to the late 1990s that measure the solar energy reflected by Earth, the heat the planet emits, and the role of clouds in that process. The instrument was built by Northrop Grumman, funded by NOAA and managed by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, in coordination with the JPSS program.

"The successful launch of CERES FM6 and acquisition of initial data is fantastic news," said David Considine, program manager for NASA's Modeling, Analysis and Prediction program. "Its data will help us to understand the critical role that clouds play in the Earth system, and shows the value to the Nation of the NASA and NOAA collaboration leading to this achievement."

In this longwave image from CERES FM6, heat energy radiated from Earth is represented by shades of yellow, red, blue and white. Bright yellow regions are the hottest and emit the most energy out to space. Dark blue and bright white regions, which represent clouds, are much colder and emit the least energy. Credit: NASA

The CERES data record extends back to 1997. Prior to CERES, the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) collected similar data beginning in 1984. The two NASA programs demonstrate NASA’s long-term involvement in measuring Earth's energy balance going back more than 30 years.

This information appears courtesy of NASA. For more information, visit their website. To learn more about the CERES instrument, visit the JPSS website.

NOAA-20 Sends First OMPS Instrument Data

January 8, 2018

The OMPS instrument on the NOAA-20 satellite acquired its first data on January 5, 2018. The OMPS (Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite) measures the health of Earth’s ozone layer, and continues a crucial global data stream produced by current ozone monitoring systems. Measurements of ozone throughout Earth’s atmosphere are key to issuing air quality warnings and creating the National Weather Service’s UV indexes.

OMPS shows us ultraviolet light that is reflected back into space from the atmosphere called “backscattering”. This first-light image shows the radiance values for the cloud reflectivity channel on the OMPS Nadir Mapper. The highest radiances are associated with bright cloud tops. The cloud reflectivity channel is one of the five primary channels used to estimate total ozone concentration. The striping pattern is created from the slight differences in the angle of the satellite relative to the incoming energy from the sun.

The second image shows the radiance at 307.5nm from the OMPS Nadir Profiler. This measurement is one of the 12 primary channels used to estimate the ozone at various levels in the atmosphere - closer to and farther from Earth’s surface . The OMPS Nadir Profiler only makes measurements directly under the satellite's path.

Understanding the vertical structure of ozone in the atmosphere is important because ozone in the stratosphere (higher in the atmosphere) protects us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet energy while ozone in the troposphere (lower in the atmosphere) contributes to air pollution.

Image processing by NOAA/Center for Satellite Applications and Research.

Contributors: Trevor Beck, Chunhui Pan, NOAA/NESDIS/STAR, JSTAR OMPS SDR Team

NOAA-20 Sends First Image from Cross-track Infrared Sounder Instrument

January 5, 2018

On Jan 5, 2018, forty-eight days after JPSS-1 (now NOAA-20) launched into Earth orbit, the satellite sent back its first Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS) science data. This data is a part of a series of instrument activation and checkout tests that occur before the satellite is declared fully operational. CrIS is one of five key instruments onboard NOAA-20 that will improve day-to-day weather forecasting while extending the record of many long-term observations of Earth's climate.

CrIS provides global hyperspectral infrared observations twice daily for profiling atmospheric temperature and water vapor, critically needed information for improving weather forecast accuracy out to seven days. CrIS also supplies information to retrieve greenhouse gases, land surface and cloud properties. CrIS measures infrared spectra in three spectral bands: the long-wave IR (LWIR) band from 650 to 1095 cm-1, mid-wave IR (MWIR) band from 1210 to 1750 cm-1and short-wave IR (SWIR) band from 2155 to 2550 cm-1.

This image is a "window" channel at 900 cm-1 (11.1 microns) and is very sensitive to the temperature of the Earth's surface and clouds. The dark blue areas in the image indicate the presence of cold clouds and surfaces (e.g., snow and ice), yellow, oranges and red areas indicate varying levels of heat rising from the warm Earth’s surface (see the color bar below). Of particular note in this image is the blizzard striking the northeast coast of the United State on January 5, 2018.

NOAA-20 Captured Detailed Thermal Imagery of Bomb Cyclone

January 5, 2018

Forty-seven days after it was first launched, the NOAA-20 polar-orbiting satellite sent back its first thermal infrared images on January 4, 2018. This VIIRS thermal infrared image shows stunning detail of the powerful 'bomb cyclone' that struck the East Coast of North America on Jan. 2-3, 2018. The powerful winter nor'easter delivered snow and ice, 50 to 80 mph wind gusts, and strong surf from northern Florida to Nova Scotia, Canada. Due to its rapid intensification (the barometric pressure at the center of the storm dropped 59 millibars in 24 hours), the storm ranks among the strongest ever observed along the East Coast.

Infrared satellite imagery, which detects heat radiating off of clouds and the surface of the Earth, can help meteorologists detect certain features of the storm. This image was created from the VIIRS M15 radiometric band, which is sensitive to changes in atmospheric temperature. In this thermal infrared image, blue and white indicate the coldest sectors of the storm, while the red and yellow shades indicate relatively warmer ocean and land surface temperatures. The whitest shades show the coldest and highest cloud-top heights, which are associated with more intense storm activity.


December 13, 2017

NOAA-20 VIIRS First Light Image Captures One of the Largest Wildfires in California History (Image generated by NOAA’s Center for Satellite Applications and Research and the NOAA Visualization Lab)

Twenty-five days after JPSS-1 (NOAA-20) was launched into Earth orbit, NOAA-20 sent back its first Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) science data on December 13, 2017, as part of a series of instrument activation and checkouts that is taking place before the satellite goes into fully operational mode. VIIRS is one of the key five instruments onboard NOAA-20 that will improve day-to-day weather forecast and environmental monitoring, while extending the record of many long-term observations of Earth's climate.

This VIIRS true color image captures the aggressive wildfires in Southern California, which forced thousands to flee their homes. As of Wednesday morning, December 13, 2017, the Thomas Fire was the fourth-largest fire in California history, and it continues to generate smoke and plumes as it enters its second week. The fire spanned more than 370 square miles and remains the strongest blaze for firefighters to battle in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. NOAA-20 VIIRS will help monitor active fires globally for many years to come.

VIIRS is a scanning radiometer onboard Suomi NPP and JPSS satellites that produces global imagery and radiometric measurements of the land, atmosphere, cryosphere, and oceans in the visible and infrared bands with moderate spatial resolutions at 750m and 375m respectively. The operationally produced VIIRS data are widely used globally to monitor hurricanes/typhoons, measure cloud and aerosol properties, ocean color, sea and land surface temperature, ice motion and temperature, active fires, and Earth's albedo. VIIRS has 22 spectral channels covering a broad electromagnetic spectrum from 0.4μm (visible) to 12.5μm (thermal infrared). These include 14 channels measuring reflected sun-light, and seven channels measuring emitted energy from the earth. In addition, VIIRS has a day/night band (DNB) which can measure faint night lights from human settlements, aurora, and other sources (e.g., fires). The VIIRS data are especially useful for weather forecasting in the polar-regions such as Alaska with frequent temporal coverages. The VIIRS data support the operational production of at least 26 Environmental Data Records (EDRs) with global coverage.

Florida Before and After Hurricane
In this VIIRS day-night band image captured December 13, 2017, the bright lights of urban centers such as Tokyo and Seoul stand out in sharp contrast to more rural land areas and dark ocean surfaces. The glow of fishing vessels off the coast of South Korea is also clearly visible.

To learn more about VIIRS, see our instrument fact sheet.

NOAA-20 Returns First ATMS Data

November 29, 2017

Eleven days after JPSS-1 launched into Earth orbit, the satellite, now known as NOAA-20, has sent back its first Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) science data as part of a series of instrument startups and checkouts that will take place before the satellite goes into full operational mode. The NOAA-20 satellite carries five instruments that will improve day-to-day weather forecasting while extending the record of many long-term observations of Earth's climate.

Florida Before and After Hurricane

ATMS receives 22 channels of radio waves from 23 to 183 gigahertz. Five water vapor channels, combined with other temperature sounding channels are used to provide the critical global atmospheric temperature and water vapor needed to provide accurate weather forecasts out to seven days. ATMS also maps global precipitation, snow and ice cover.

This image uses ATMS data to depict the location and abundance of water vapor (as associated with antenna temperatures) in the lower atmosphere, from the surface of the Earth to 5 kilometers altitude. Transparent/grey colors depict areas with less water vapor, while blue-green and purple colors represent abundant water in all phases (vapor, clouds, and precipitation) in low and middle latitudes. In the polar regions, purple depicts surface snow and ice. Water vapor distribution in space and time is a critical measurement for improving global weather forecasts. With detailed vertical information, forecasters can better identify the transport of water vapor associated with jet streams, which can fuel severe weather events.