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Watching Earth's winds, on a shoestring
Date:10/30/2013

cean winds from space that began in 1978 with the launch of NASA's SeaSat satellite. Most recently, NASA's QuikScat scatterometer, which launched in 1999, gave us a dynamic picture of the world's ocean winds.

But when QuikScat lost its ability to produce ocean wind measurements in 2009, science suffered from the loss of the data. In the summer of 2012, an opportunity arose to fly a scatterometer instrument on the space station. ISS-RapidScat was the result.

Most scatterometer-carrying satellites fly in what's called a sun-synchronous orbit around Earth. In other words, they cross Earth's equator at the same local time every orbit. The space station, however, will carry the ISS-RapidScat in a non-sun-synchronous orbit. This means the instrument will see different parts of the planet at different times of day, making measurements in the same spot within less than an hour before or after another instrument makes its own observations. These all-hour measurements will allow ISS-RapidScat to pick up the effects of the sun on ocean winds as the day progresses. In addition, the space station's coverage over the tropics means that ISS-RapidScat will offer extra tracking of storms that may develop into hurricanes or other tropical cyclones.

Anywhere the wind blows

"We'll be able to see how wind speed changes with the time of day," said Rodrguez. "ISS-RapidScat will link together all previous and current scatterometer missions, providing us with a more complete picture of how ocean winds change. Combined with data from the European ASCAT scatterometer mission, we'll be able to observe 90 percent of Earth's surface at least once a day, and in many places, several times a day."

ISS-RapidScat's near-global coverage of Earth's ocean -- within the space station's orbit inclination of 51.6 degrees north and south of the equator -- will make it an important tool for scientists who observe and predict Earth's weather. "Frequent obser
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Contact: Alan Buis
Alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov
818-354-0474
NASA/Johnson Space Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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