New instrument aboard Suomi Earth-observation satellite will
monitor the ozone layer's recovery during the coming decades.
NASA's Next Mission: Deep Space
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
NASA has activated another instrument aboard a recently launched satellite that will collect data about the planet's ailing ozone layer to help scientists monitor its return to health.
The Ozone Mapper Profiler Suite (OMPS), one of five instruments aboard NASA's Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, soon will be transmitting data to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) about the condition of Earth's stratospheric ozone, which keeps harmful levels of the sun's ultraviolet radiation from reaching Earth, according to NOAA.
The OMPS is now the third instrument aboard Suomi to be operational. Already taking measurements are the Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), which studies the atmosphere's 3-D structure of temperature and water vapor; and the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), which measures temperature and humidity in both clear and cloudy conditions.
Scientists have been keeping an eye on the ozone layer since the 1970s, when it was first predicted that an increase in chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) would begin eroding it.
The 1987 United Nations Montreal Protocol agreement phased out and eventually eliminated the use of ozone-depleting substances in an effort to protect the layer, which is expected to begin a period of recovery in the next three decades, according to NOAA.
With OMPS, the agency has a new way to monitor the ozone layer's return to health. The instrument looks at upper parts of the atmosphere to observe the distribution of ozone and can help verify how it fares during the crucial recovery period, according to NOAA.
"Ozone depletion has been a major concern for decades," said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service, in a statement. "Scientists need reliable technology that tracks ozone from space, and OMPS gives us the opportunity."
The OMPS itself is comprised of three instruments--two that look downward called nadir mapper and nadir profiler, and a new instrument called the limb profiler that looks at the atmosphere from the side. It's this last instrument that can accurately estimate how the ozone is distributed, according to NOAA, while the nadir mapper and profiler monitor the total amounts of ozone as they cover the entire globe.
NASA launched Suomi on Oct. 28 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission is a bridge between two current climate satellite missions--the NOAA's Polar Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) and NASA's Earth Observing System satellites--and the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS).
Sensors aboard Suomi transmit data to a ground station in Svalbard, Norway, once every time the satellite orbits Earth. That data is then sent via fiber-optic cable to a NOAA facility in Suitland, Md., for its climate and weather research.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the Suomi NPP mission for the Earth Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. NOAA and the Department of Defense funded the OMPS instrument.
How 10 federal agencies are tapping the power of cloud computing--without compromising security. Also in the new, all-digital InformationWeek Government supplement: To judge the success of the OMB's IT reform efforts, we need concrete numbers on cost savings and returns. Download our Cloud In Action issue of InformationWeek Government now. (Free registration required.)
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security EnterpriseTo learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
IT Strategies to Conquer the CloudChances are your organization is adopting cloud computing in one way or another -- or in multiple ways. Understanding the skills you need and how cloud affects IT operations and networking will help you adapt.