Better weather satellites will improve smoke pollution forecasts

Air pollution comes from many different sources. One of the more substantial summertime pollution sources in the summer – wildfire smoke – has been historically difficult for scientists to monitor and forecast. Knowing how smoke particles are developing can be important information, especially for vulnerable populations. “We know it exasperates asthma, especially in young children. Cardiovascular diseases, upper respiratory illnesses, especially for older and younger populations,” says Dr. Shobha Kondragunta, a leading science team for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. work in the past, NOAA and National Weather Service forecasters use wildfire data coming in from “polar-orbiting” satellites. provide very high-resolution images, but they can only capture images over a specific point once a day. We don’t know when it is going to happen, “Kondragunta said.But recently, NOAA and NASA have been working to upgrade our ability to capture wildfire data from space using upgraded” geostationary “satellites. This allows new data to come in every five minutes instead of just once a day. time, process the data and then provide the Weather Service to be used in the models, “Kondragunta said.These frequent data updates allow researchers to spot fires as they form, even in remote locations. They can also track how fast the smoke is growing and how the smoke is moving throughout different levels of the atmosphere. These improvements to smoke forecasting are still in the experimental phase, but Kondragunta says the National Weather Service is starting to use the upgraded forecasts this coming spring. Once available, these better forecasts can help alert quality managers to potential risks to their communities. Farmers and farmers who may need to take steps to protect their crops from smoke damage.

Air pollution comes from many different sources.

One of the more substantial summertime pollution sources in the summer – wildfire smoke – has been historically difficult for scientists to monitor and forecast.

Knowing how smoke particles are developing can be important information, especially for vulnerable populations.

“We know it exasperates asthma, especially in young children. Cardiovascular diseases, upper respiratory illnesses, especially for older and younger populations,” says Dr. Shobha Kondragunta, a leading science team for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

Kondragunta’s work is focused on using satellite data to improve the ability to track and forecast smoke conditions.

In the past, NOAA and National Weather Service forecasters used wildfire data coming in from “polar-orbiting” satellites. These satellites are relatively close to the ground and provide very high resolution images, but they can only capture images over a specific point once a day.

That limited data availability has been a major limiting factor in forecasting accuracy.

“These events are random. We don’t know when it’s going to happen, how long is it going to last,” Kondragunta said.

But recently, NOAA and NASA have been working to upgrade our ability to capture wildfire data from space using upgraded “geostationary” satellites.

These types of satellites orbit Earth from a fixed location, meaning they continuously send back data from the same region. This allows new data to come in every five minutes instead of just once per day.

“Then we capture that information from satellites in real time, process the data and then provide the Weather Service to be used in the models,” Kondragunta said.

These frequent data updates allow scientists to spot fires as they form, even in remote locations. They can also track how fast the smoke is growing and how the smoke is moving throughout different levels of the atmosphere.

These improvements to smoke forecasting are still in the experimental phase, but Kondragunta says the National Weather Service is starting to use the upgraded forecasts this coming spring.

Once available, these better forecasts can help alert quality managers to potential risks to their communities.

Farmers and farmers who may need to take steps to protect their crops from smoke damage.

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