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New satellite instrument for improved weather forecasts put into service

February 8, 2012

In this CrIS image the orange colors represent very warm sea surface temperatures, while magenta represents both very cold temperatures, as well as high-altitude cloud tops. When all of CrIS’s channels are used, users and scientists can obtain detailed, three dimensional views of atmospheric temperature and moisture.

Download here. (Credit: NASA/NOAA)

A powerful instrument designed to give scientists more refined information about Earth’s atmosphere and improve weather and climate forecasts is now active and sending its first data back to Earth from America’s newest polar-orbiting satellite.

The Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS) will produce high resolution, three-dimensional temperature, atmospheric pressure, and moisture profiles that will be used in NOAA’s weather prediction computer models to forecast severe weather days in advance. Over longer timescales this information will also help scientists understand climate phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña.

CrIS is one of five instruments aboard the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite (NPP), which NASA launched on October 28, 2011 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Since it reached orbit, those instruments, including four used in space for the first time, are undergoing extensive, initial checkouts before starting regular science observations.

“Having data from CrIS will improve the quality, timeliness and accuracy of NOAA’s weather and climate predictions, which directly benefits everyone in America,” said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

The Suomi NPP team is expected to continue commissioning activities until the end of March. After that is complete NOAA will operate Suomi NPP, and process and distribute the data to users around the world.

“Suomi NPP instrument commissioning is going very well and the team is pleased that the satellite is taking the next step in its mission of providing this critical weather data to NOAA,” said Ken Schwer, Suomi NPP project manager.

The Suomi NPP mission is the bridge between NOAA’s Polar Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) and NASA’s Earth Observing System satellites to the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) which NOAA will operate.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the Suomi NPP mission for the Earth Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. NOAA provided the CrIS instrument and the JPSS program provides the satellite ground system. NOAA also provides the operational support.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.