As the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) releases the first data from the newly launched COSMIC-2 satellite system, meteorologists are finding evidence that the detailed observations of the atmosphere will significantly improve short-term weather forecasts.
"The data are looking very good," said Bill Schreiner, director of the UCAR COSMIC program. "The mission is absolutely a success so far."
The six small satellites that form the second generation of the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (better known as COSMIC-2) blasted into orbit last June. The satellites are equipped with an array of innovative sensors to probe large areas of the atmosphere with the goal of improving forecasts of hurricanes and other major storms. The system also provides critical information about upper atmospheric disturbances that can affect global communication and navigation systems and electrical power grids.
The data release is in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In the past few months, scientists and engineers have begun to maneuver the satellites into their operational orbits and validate instrument performance. The system is already meeting the mission minimum requirement of 4,000 daily soundings, or profiles of the atmosphere that include information on temperature, humidity, and pressure as a function of altitude. Once operational, it is expected to produce close to 5,000 daily soundings. The quality of the observations is exceeding expectations, with an average signal-to-noise ratio that is approximately twice that of the original COSMIC satellites, which were launched in 2006.
UCAR last month started to release COSMIC-2 observations of the lower atmosphere every two weeks, after performing checks on the data for any quality control issues. Meteorological centers that have analyzed the data are reporting that the observations will provide a major boost to short-term weather forecasts.