June 12 2014

JPSS-1 Satellite Ozone Monitoring Instrument Completes Major Milestone

omps total ozone provisional image
This OMPS total ozone provisional image was taken by the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite on June 3, 2014. OMPS, the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite instrument, measures the concentration of ozone in the atmosphere, providing information on how ozone concentration varies with geographic location and altitude. This is indicated in the image's colors and measurements in Dobson Units. The purple and blue colors highlight where there is the least ozone, and the yellows and reds highlight where there is more ozone. (CREDIT: NOAA)
The second of five instruments that will fly aboard the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1), America’s next generation polar-orbiting satellite, successfully completed its pre-shipment review. The Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) instrument will be hosted on the upcoming JPSS-1 satellite mission scheduled to launch in early 2017 and is currently flying on board the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite.

OMPS tracks the health of the ozone layer and measures the concentration of ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere. The completion of the OMPS pre-shipment review marks the final step before the instrument is shipped for integration with the spacecraft bus. Instrument integration is scheduled for early 2015.

“OMPS is the next JPSS-1 instrument to pass this major milestone for the JPSS program,” said Harry Cikanek, JPSS director. “We are pleased that OMPS is right on schedule. With two done and three to go, JPSS-1 is on track for success.”

Why are Ozone Measurements Important?

Data from OMPS continues three decades of total ozone and ozone profile records, providing continuity of ozone measurements which were started by NOAA Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) and will be continued with the Suomi NPP and JPSS satellites. In the 1970s, scientists predicted that an increase in chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) would significantly deplete the Earth’s ozone layer. It is critical to monitor the ozone levels in the atmosphere, because they partially block ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun from striking the Earth’s surface. As a result, in 1987, the United Nations Montreal Protocol was signed to initiate the phasing out of harmful substances, like CFCs, that deplete the ozone layer.

tropical cyclone viirs image
The Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) instrument undergoes post thermal inspection at a Ball facility in Boulder, Colo. (CREDIT: Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp.)
OMPS measurements fulfill the U.S. treaty obligation to monitor global ozone concentrations for the Montreal Protocol and also ensure there are no gaps in satellite coverage. OMPS will provide continuity of data currently provided by Suomi NPP as well as enhancements over NOAA POES for numerical weather prediction modeling and a variety of environmental observations, like volcanic ash monitoring to aid in aircraft safety warnings. OMPS measurements will also be used by ozone-assessment researchers and policy makers as an input to global climate models.

OMPS data is useful when combined with cloud predictions, to produce enhanced ultraviolet index forecasts— which are used to alert the public about potentially harmful UV levels and the potential for dangerous UV exposure that can possibly lead to skin cancer. NOAA’s National Weather Service calculates the UV Index forecasts based on ozone measurements from NOAA satellites and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) produces the reports.

France A. Córdova, Ph.D., director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) said during an April 29, 2014 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, “In the U.S. alone, protecting our planet’s stratospheric ozone will produce $4.2 trillion in health benefits and prevent 6.3 million deaths from skin cancer from 1990 to 2165, according to the EPA.”

ozone layer thickness
The ozone suite on next generation satellites continues more than 30 years of ozone data. This image shows the thickness of the Earth’s ozone layer from 1982 to 2012. Thickness is measured in Dobson units, with smaller amounts of overhead ozone shown in blue and larger amounts shown in orange and yellow. (CREDIT: NOAA/NASA)
The OMPS instrument’s ability to aid with monitoring ozone levels and help scientists and researchers at government agencies, like EPA and other organizations, receive information to properly warn the public about potential health risks associated with the ozone is a critical contribution to NOAA’s mission, which includes ensuring a more “Weather-Ready Nation,” healthy coasts, resilient coastal communities, and adapting and mitigating climate change. The JPSS satellite constellation will ensure OMPS measurements are poised to provide these critical measurements for years to come.

The OMPS instrument is built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation (BATC) and is a suite of hyperspectral instruments that take daily measurements of the global distribution of the total atmospheric ozone column. It also measures the vertical distribution of ozone from about 15 km to 60 km.

JPSS is a collaboration between NOAA and NASA, and provides continuity of critical, global Earth observations, including oceans, clouds, ozone, snow, ice, vegetation and atmosphere. NOAA’s National Weather Service uses JPSS data in models for medium- and long-term forecasting. JPSS also enables scientists and forecasters to monitor and predict weather patterns with greater accuracy and to study long-term climate trends by extending the more than 30-year satellite record.

For more information on how ozone impacts human health, visit http://www.stateoftheair.org/

To view original April 29 testimony by NSF Director France Cordova, visit http://www.nsf.gov/about/congress/113/fc_drivinginnovation_140429.jsp