An article in the 16 June edition of Science magazine titled â€œClimate Sensors Dropped From U.S. Weather Satellite Packageâ€? is reporting that the next generation polar orbiting satellites, the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), the first of which is scheduled to launch in three years, will not include critical passive sensors for monitoring climate variables. The reason for the instrument omission is cost.
The NPOESS program was developed in 1994 and incorporates the resources of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Defense (DoD), and NASA. The goal of this project was to monitor the earthâ€™s weather and climate as well as perform military operations. The program was originally intended to launch six satellites over its lifetime with at least three polar orbiters in operation at each time; however, cutbacks have reduced the number of projected polar orbiters over the projects lifetime to four. The original termination date of the project was in 2018, but has been pushed back to 2022.
Six instruments that have been scrapped from NPOESS are Conical Scanning Microwave Imager/Sounder (CMIS), the Total Irradiance Sensor (TIS), the Earth Radiation Budget Sensor (ERBS), the Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor, the Space Environment Sensor Suite, and an Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite. The first three instruments on the list are of critical importance to monitoring climate while the last three are important to air pollution monitoring, solar terrestrial relations, and stratospheric ozone properties, respectively.
CMIS, a 32 channel passive microwave sensor, was intended to measure important climate variables such as the atmospheric temperature and moisture profile, precipitation, soil moisture, and ice cover. The TIS and ERBS were intended to measure the incoming solar radiation and the budget and distribution of radiation, which would shed light on temperature distributions across the globe.
As the NOAA is the only current source of global climate information from satellites, researchers may have some difficulties in their climatological studies due to a lack of solid data.