8.4 GeoSTAR/PATH – A future hurricane observing system

Tuesday, 29 April 2008: 8:00 PM
Palms E (Wyndham Orlando Resort)
Bjorn H. Lambrigtsen, JPL and California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA; and T. Gaier, A. Tanner, P. Kangaslahti, and S. Brown

In January 2007 National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, released a “decadal survey” of NASA and NOAA Earth space missions. Among the 15 missions that the NRC recommended that NASA undertake was one called the “Precipitation and All-weather Temperature and Humidity” mission (PATH). A “MW array spectrometer” was identified as the recommended instrument payload for PATH. Such an instrument, called the Geostationary Synthetic Thinned Aperture Radiometer (GeoSTAR), has been developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is a microwave sounder with the same capabilities as have been available on low earth orbiting (LEO) satellites for nearly 10 years with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) system. Providing such a capability in geostationary orbit (GEO) has long been a goal for NOAA and NASA, since the GEO vantage point offers key advantages over LEO – such as a continuous view of the entire life cycle of storms and hurricanes. Due to the very large antenna aperture needed for a microwave sounder to provide the required spatial resolution, it has not been possible to develop such instruments for GEO. Only infrared sounders have been feasible, but they are severely hampered by clouds – which is not a problem for microwave sounders. GeoSTAR overcomes those difficulties by using a new approach to synthesize a large aperture, and the development of the GeoSTAR concept therefore makes a GEO microwave sounder feasible. This was clearly viewed by the NRC as a very important breakthrough, and plans for a PATH/GeoSTAR mission are now under development. GeoSTAR will provide a number of measurements that are crucial for the monitoring and prediction of hurricanes and severe storms – including hemispheric 3-dimensional temperature, humidity and cloud liquid water fields, rain rates and totals, tropospheric wind vectors, sea surface temperature, and parameters associated with deep convection and atmospheric instability – everywhere and all the time, even in the presence of clouds. In addition, as reported by us separately, a new method is being developed to predict and mimic precipitation radar observations with microwave sounder data, and that will make it possible to use GeoSTAR as if it were a GEO radar system. We discuss possible mission scenarios and some of the science applications.
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