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NASA extends TRMM operations

NASA will extend operation of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) through the end of 2004, in light of a recent request from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The extension, to be undertaken jointly with NASA’s TRMM partner, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will provide data during another storm season in the U.S. and Asia.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission or TRMM satellite was able to capture this unique image of Alex as it organized off of the southeast US coast. The images and data obtained from TRMM can provide precise estimates of the storm’s location as well as estimates of the storm’s intensity to the the National Hurricane Center (or NOAA Tropical Prediction Center). The first image was taken at 08:23 UTC (04:23 EDT) on 2 August 2004. TRMM has yielded significant scientific research data over the last seven years to users around the globe. In addition, TRMM data has aided NOAA, other government agencies, and other users in their operational work of monitoring and predicting rainfall and storms, as well as in storm research.

TRMM is the first satellite to measure rainfall over the global tropics, allowing scientists to study the transfer of water and energy among the global atmosphere and ocean surface that form the faster portions of the Earth’s climate system. Because TRMM’s radar enables it to “see through” clouds, it allows weather researchers to make the equivalent of a CAT-scan of hurricanes and helps weather forecasters to use TRMM data to improve prediction of severe storms.

NASA and NOAA have asked the National Academy of Sciences to convene a workshop next month to advise NASA and NOAA on the best use of TRMM’s remaining spacecraft life; the overall risks and benefits of the TRMM mission extension options; the advisability of transfer of operational responsibility for TRMM to NOAA; any requirement for a follow-on operational satellite to provide comparable TRMM data; and optimal use of GPM, a follow-on research spacecraft to TRMM, planned for launch by the end of the decade. NASA and NOAA will work with the National Academy of Sciences to share with the public outcomes from next month’s workshop.