ESSIC hosts 2nd annual NOAA GPM Workshop

ESSIC hosted the second annual NOAA User Workshop on the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Missions this year from November 29 to December 1, with about 60 participants from the government, private sectors, or academia.

The three day meeting, co-sponsored by NESDIS/STAR and NWS/OHD, followed up on last year’s highly successful workshop and focused on user applications of GPM-era data and products.

The Global Precipitations Measurement Mission is a joint mission with JAXA, the Japanese equivalent to NASA, and looks at global precipitation, including rain and snow. The concept builds off of the ongoing Tropical Rainfall Measurement (TRM) Mission, which began in 1997 and measured precipitation in tropical regions.

The GPM Mission will be similar to the TRM Mission, but expanded to cover the entire globe with new instruments better suited to measure cold season precipitation.

The scientists met during the workshop to discuss the “GPM Concept,” where there will be one primary satellite to measure precipitation that can then extend its science to other satellites.

Ralph Ferraro, Branch Head of the Satellite Climate Studies Branch (CoRP / SCSB),which is co-located with CICS at the ESSIC building site of the workshop, co-organized the workshop and says that the “core” satellite will be launched in early 2014 and has radar and a radiometer which measures microwave emissions from the atmosphere. These measurements will then be extended to a constellation of other satellites.

“The idea is that you utilize this primary satellite as a gold standard of accuracy, then the others intersect with GPM satellite so then you can tune measurements,” Ferraro said. “You have a sort of fleet of satellites up there and the goal is to get global coverage of rainfall every three hours or less.”

All of the satellites that measure precipitation are different, so it’s a challenge for them to all be integrated for them to gets the most accurate measurement, Ferraro said.

The TRM satellite currently serves as the core satellite, but once the GPM core satellite is launched it will cover more of the world at higher latitudes with instruments that are more sensitive to higher forms of precipitation.

Precipitation-measuring satellites are important to NOAA and NASA because it is impossible to get accurate ground measurements in every location.

“Generally in populated regions we have good measurements but in sparsely populated areas of the world that don’t have or can’t afford ground data, or areas over the ocean, that’s why we wanted to use satellites to measure rainfall,” Ferraro said.

The satellites will be able to help coastal areas, for example, if there was a hurricane approaching land and there was no other means to measure the rainfall except for the GPM instruments.

But Ferraro believes that the data isn’t as widely used as it could be. With NASA and JAXA investing around one billion dollars in to the missions, he believes with a small investment NOAA could really take advantage of the data.

The satellites themselves are developed and tested at NASA, and then used by NOAA for climate and weather forecasting and warnings.

“One of the purposes of the workshop is to hear from the different parts of NOAA to find out what the potential uses of the GPM data would be and any needs they have to get ready for that,” Ferraro said. “For example, we need to get the data to people as soon as it’s available and in a format that they can use…so we have to translate NASA data.”

The workshop focused on what the scientists call the “GPM Era,” the era for the next ten years during the GPM Mission and then the next mission that will potentially follow.

Last year’s workshop began with the beginning of this era, discussing why the scientists at NOAA need the GPM data and how they would use it.

This year, the workshop covered ways they can combine GPM data with other types of data, how to start preparing for accelerated use of the data at NOAA, and simulations of what the core satellite will do and how weather forecasters can best use it.

“Historically there’s a problem of getting research data in to an operational setting like NOAA,” Ferraro said. “It takes longer than it should, but by holding the workshop we’re trying to get a jump start so that when we get this data we can start utilizing it as quickly as possible.”

(Related: See ESSIC News Highlight on GPM Workshop.)