March 26 2014

After two years of operation, Suomi NPP data users applaud its performance

suomi npp render
Named after the University of Wisconsin Meteorologist Verner E. Suomi, Suomi NPP is the first next generation polar-orbiting satellite and successfully launched on October 28, 2011 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (CREDIT: University of Wisconsin-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center NOAA Suomi NPP Satellite)
When it launched on October 28, 2011, the Suomi NPP satellite was heralded as the link between NOAA's legacy polar satellite fleet, NASA's Earth observing missions and the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). Two years and more than 12,000 orbits since Suomi NPP became operational, scientists in the U.S. and around the world are seeing impressive results in the improved quality of data from its five sophisticated instruments. These instruments will also fly on the JPSS series satellites. They are: Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) and Cloud and Earth Radiant Energy System (CERES).

Data from the Suomi NPP satellite have helped improve the NOAA National Weather Service's (NWS) ability to accurately forecast severe weather events in the three to seven day window. James Yoe, physical scientist at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) and the chief administrative officer for Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation describes how Suomi NPP does this most important function.

Yoe said, "The ATMS and CrIS instruments help provide the core measurements related to variations of the temperature and moisture in the Earth's atmosphere to guide the NWS's global numerical weather prediction forecast model. The output from these models is then used by the forecasters to predict severe weather that far in advance."

Another critical capability on Suomi NPP comes from visual and infrared imaging on the VIIRS instrument. "VIIRS is giving us global images with extremely fine resolution of the Earth's surface and cloud cover and has become especially valuable for our forecast operations in Alaska," said Yoe. In addition to providing stunning imagery of the Earth, VIIRS is the first instrument to be able to view the Earth at night using light from the moon. This day/night capability has proven its value in helping accurately forecast challenging weather events in Alaska.

In addition to the most critical functions provided by ATMS, CrIS and VIIRS, data from the Suomi NPP instrument suite form the basis for products that support a wide range of weather, environment and ocean operational forecasting and research needs. These products include sea ice, snow cover, wild fires, volcanic ash (which affects aviation safety), flood and drought predictions, sea surface temperature and harmful ocean algal blooms.

NOAA scientists are using OMPS ozone products to monitor the health of the earth's ozone layer. The monitoring also includes the annual occurrence of the ozone hole over Antarctica, and the recovery of the ozone layer from man-made ozone-depleting chemicals. This work continues more than 30 years of ozone monitoring, fulfilling a U.S. treaty obligation.

"Suomi NPP is fulfilling its intended purpose - to provide the first flight of the JPSS instrument suite, while producing high-quality, short-term weather and long-range environmental measurements for users," said Harry Cikanek, JPSS director. "The satellite continues to show great operational health and this gives us confidence as we continue to build JPSS-1 and prepare it for an early 2017 launch."

Suomi NPP also provides a big benefit to NOAA's inter-agency and international partners. The data from Suomi NPP are made available in near real-time to the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy to help meet their mission needs. Building on more than 15 years of polar weather satellite cooperation, NOAA also provides Suomi NPP data to our European partner, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), which comprises 30 cooperating and member countries. EUMETSAT in turn directly provides data from METOP satellites to NOAA.

Through direct broadcast, Suomi NPP data are accessible to many of NOAA's other international partners. Third party relay service of ATMS/CrIS data is provided through EUMETCast and the World Meteorological Organization/Global Telecommunication System (WMO/GTS). "For meteorology, we are assimilating the ATMS instrument operationally," said a spokesperson from the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF). "In testing, this gave significantly positive impact in the short-range over the Southern Hemisphere and in the long range over the Northern Hemisphere. The CrIS instrument is operationally monitored, and is of good quality…and we are ready to monitor OMPS ozone products as soon as the near real-time dissemination starts." The United Kingdom's Meteorological Office has also reported significant positive forecast impacts using data from both ATMS and CrIS. Other international partners include: the Canadian Meteorological Centre (Environment Canada), Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) and India's National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMWRF).

"We greatly appreciate the cooperation and collaboration of our domestic and international partners," said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NESDIS. "Most notably, the close partnership between NOAA and NASA was pivotal to our success in the development, launch, and operational transition phases of Suomi-NPP."

Suomi-NPP products are available via NOAA's Comprehensive Large Array-Data Stewardship (CLASS) website, which currently houses more than 1.32 petabytes of data from the satellite. For a better understanding of the volume of data, 1.32 petabytes of data is equal to the amount that could be stored on 82,500 (16GB) smartphones. Suomi NPP data are used by NOAA and other research scientists as they study severe weather, atmospheric and oceanographic phenomena and climate variability.

The next satellite in the series, JPSS-1, is on schedule to launch in early 2017, with JPSS-2 set to lift off in late 2021.

Examples of other Suomi NPP achievements include: