Task 301

Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation

Principal Investigator(s):

Lars Peter Riishojgaard


Jack Richards

Last Updated:

October 26, 2012 15:26:19

Description of Problem

The Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation is a US interagency distributed center charged with coordinating satellite data assimilation activities for environmental prediction applications between NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense. The Director reports to a Management Oversight Board that consists of representatives from the three partner agencies, and he is responsible for the strategic direction and the daily execution of the research and development work undertaken by the Center as well as for representing the Center in national and international scientific contexts. The Fiscal Year 2011 budget of the Center amounted to ~$20M.

Scientific Objectives and Approach

JCSDA funds a number of external and internal research activities aimed at increasing both the amount of satellite data used in operational prediction systems in the US and the overall impact on performance of these data. The center also funds and coordinates activities aimed at preparing for assimilation of data from new satellite systems well in advance of the launch of these systems. This is important in order to improve the return on the very substantial investment of the US federal government and other entities in satellite systems. Highlights of the activities of the past year include improved use of radiances from hyperspectral IR sensors such as AIRS and IASI and preparatory work for the assimilation of data from NASA’s NPP mission, a precursor to the next generation of polar orbiting operational meteorological satellites which was launched in October 2011.


As part of the monitoring effort for its various activities and in order to foster cross-pollination between the projects funded by it, the Joint Center hosted its 9th Annual Science Workshop at the University of Maryland College Park on May 24-25. The Workshop drew its highest attendance number ever with over 160 participants well gathering to present, review and discuss progress and plans for Joint Center research and development. Very good progress was noted for several areas including atmospheric composition and land data assimilation.

One of the main limiting factors for progress in data assimilation and therefore indirectly also a limiting factor for the forecast skill of operational prediction system is the transfer of new research ideas, algorithm and data into operations. In the US, this general problem has been exacerbated by the fact that the research community has been without access to codes and systems developed by the operational organizations. In order to facilitate such access, the Joint Center has established a supercomputing facility at the Goddard Space Flight Center onto which operational data assimilation/prediction systems developed by NOAA/NCEP have been ported and are being made accessible to JCSDA investigators. This is expected to greatly enhance the interaction between the operational and research communities, and the facility is currently used to speed up the operational implementation of data from the Suomi/NPP system.

Data assimilation systems are extremely valuable tools also for developers of observing systems, since the use if these systems in the so-called Observing System Simulation Experiments (OSSE) methodology allows us to simulate the impact on forecast skill of new, hypothetical observing systems before even making the decision whether to fund the development and deployment. JCSDA has built up a successful OSSE capability and has demonstrated its use via a series of impact experiments for NASA’s GWOS concept, a wind lidar demonstration mission developed in response to the NRC Decadal Survey. The OSSE facility is now used also to study various potential scenarios for DoD’s future operational polar meteorological satellite system.

Outside the main task of leading the Joint Center, the JCSDA Director continues to be active in space system development. He is a member of the Mission Advisory Group of ESA’s ADM/Aeolus Wind Lidar Mission, of the International Users and Science Team of the Canadian PCW mission, and he is a Co-Chair of the US Working Group of Space-Based Wind Lidars. The JCSDA Director is also very active in WMO and is currently chairing the Open Program Area Group on Integrated Observing Systems under the WMO Commission for Basic Systems and is involved in the implementation of WIGOS, the WMO Integrated Observing Systems.