Paper on the likely impact of new satellites on forecasts published in Monthly Weather Review

The Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission is a group of satellites that will provide observations of temperature, moisture, rainfall, and water particles in the atmosphere.  Planned for launch in 2022, the satellites will provide measurements that will be particularly important for studying tropical cyclones because they will be collected more frequently (about every hour) than other currently available satellite measurements of this kind.  TROPICS data are also expected to improve forecasts when added to into computer forecast models.  In this study, we ran experiments with simulated TROPICS data to estimate how much improvement we can expect to see from using the data in a forecast model once the satellites have been launched.  We also explored ways to get the greatest impact from the observations, especially where the measurements are affected by clouds.  The results of this study will prepare us to more effectively use real data from TROPICS when the satellites come online.

The TROPICS Pathfinder satellite pictured above was launched on June 30. The satellite body measures approximately 10 cm X 10 cm X 36 cm and is identical to the six additional satellites that will be launched in the constellation in 2022. The golden cube at the top is the microwave radiometer, which measures the precipitation, temperature, and humidity inside tropical storms.

Important Conclusions:

  • The simulated TROPICS measurements led to forecasts of storm location and intensity that were about 15% and 10% more accurate, respectively, than without using the data. The measurements also led to improvement in temperature and wind forecasts out to five days and humidity forecasts out to 36 hours.
  • The impact of the TROPICS measurements increased when they were handled according to how cloudy the atmosphere was at the measurement.

You can read the paper at https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/mwre/aop/MWR-D-20-0339.1/MWR-D-20-0339.1.xml.

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