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Weather Satellites Launch Improvements to Forecasts

Mon, 2012-05-14 11:13 -- cnicolini

Atmospheric scientists improve weather satellites to increase the accuracy of weather forecasts.
Originally published: 
Apr 23 2012 - 11:15am
By: 
Ted Chandler, Contributing Producer

(Inside Science TV) – High above the Earth’s atmosphere, four guardians are watching over our planet.  But they’re not superheroes, they’re weather satellites. 

Atmospheric scientists at the University of Wisconsin – Madison designed the first successful weather-related satellite instruments in the 1950s. Today, university researchers are working closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop the latest in weather-satellite technology.

In this new model, two geostationary satellites stay in place over the equator, while two polar orbiting satellites continuously circle the entire globe, collecting data on weather conditions. Then, the researchers' powerful mathematical models help forecasters make better weather predictions than ever before with the improved satellite data.

“Satellites measure water vapor and energy our eyes can’t see. The technology has improved so much that today’s five-day forecast is more accurate than the two-day forecast was 10 years ago,” said Steve Ackerman, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Wisconsin.

Satellites can identify where severe weather is forming before radar systems on the ground can detect them. This crucial technology gives forecasters more lead time to warn people in affected areas of dangerous weather conditions.

In 2014, the next generation of these satellites will be launched into orbit – providing better and faster measurements and making more accurate forecasts.

“The new satellites will be able to detect super cooled water in the atmosphere, which can cause icing in aircraft, and better detection of turbulence helping airplanes and helicopters avoid dangerous weather conditions for flying,” explained Ackerman.


Ted Chandler is a freelance field producer. A winner of multiple National Telly Awards, he has over 16 years in the video production industry, including with Florida-based Skystorm Productions, and has created hundreds of television programs and news segments.

Get Inside The Science:

Using Cutting-Edge Technology, UW Leads the Way in Weather Forecasting

NOAA’S Geostationary and Polar-Orbiting Weather Satellites

Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies

Steven Ackerman, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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