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SMC shieldExecutive Summary

The Satellite Meteorology and Climatology Division (SMCD) is one of three units in the NOAA NESDIS Center for Satellite Applications and Research. It conducts research and develops new satellite products to improve and expand the use of satellite data for monitoring global meteorological, climatological and environmental conditions. The Division conducts an end-to-end program ranging from planning new satellite instruments to developing advanced satellite products and applications and transitioning these innovations to operations in NOAA's weather, climate, and environmental monitoring and prediction systems.

The Division's research capabilities are concentrated in the sciences associated with satellite remote sensing of the Earth's atmosphere, surface, and climate. Most of the Division's research and development falls into the following discipline areas: atmospheric variables – temperature, humidity, winds; land surface variables – vegetation, snow and ice cover; hydrological cycle variables - precipitation, clouds, water vapor; environmental hazards – aviation hazards, air quality, fires, heavy rainfall and flash floods, and drought: and climate variables – ozone, Earth radiation budget, aerosols, and greenhouse gases.

In addition to developing new and improved products, SMCD conducts the following crosscutting activities: calibrating satellite instruments; transitioning research products to operational production; developing radiative transfer models for NWS NWP satellite data assimilation systems; developing and analyzing long-term satellite data sets for studying and assessing climate change; and planning and preparing for new satellite instruments.

Aside from legal mandates and interagency agreements, the Division's R&D program over the next 5 years and beyond will be driven by emerging trends in satellite technology and user requirements. Major trends in instrument technology that will challenge but offer new opportunities to SMCD scientists include:

  • Hyperspectral sounding and imaging instruments on Metop, NPP, NPOESS, and GOES-R with finer wavelength, spatial, and temporal resolution, but with orders of magnitude for more data, that will provide atmospheric and surface measurements of unprecedented information content, timeliness, and detail.
  • Active instruments such as GPS/RO, Cloudsat, Precipitation Radars, Calipso, and ALADIN (Atmospheric Laser Doppler Instrument) that will provide detailed measurements of the vertical structure of the atmosphere, including temperature and moisture, cloud and precipitation properties, and aerosols.
  • New operational passive instruments such as the NPOESS APS, ERBS, and TSIS, that will provide the first space-based information on aerosol composition and continue indefinitely into the future the observations of solar irradiance and Earth radiation budget initiated by NASA's research satellite.

Trends in requirements will reflect increasing pressures to improve NOAA's weather, climate, and environmental hazards analysis and prediction capabilities. SMCD will support NOAA's Weather and Water Goal performance measures to increase lead time and accuracy for weather and water warnings and forecasts and improve predictability of the onset, duration, and impact of hazardous and severe weather and water events. Satellite data, together with improvement in data assimilation, NWP models, and computer power have enabled forecast accuracy to improve at a rate of about one day per decade over the last few decades – i.e., today's 5-day forecasts are as accurate as 4-day forecasts were just 10 years ago. But the data being used are largely for clear skies, and rain and snow forecasts are still difficult. SMCD will develop the tools to assimilate observations of cloudy and precipitating areas. New SMCD initiatives in air pollution measurements from satellites will support NOAA's emerging air quality forecast program.

NOAA's mission for the next century includes a bold new Climate Goal to Understand Climate Variability and Change to Enhance Society's Ability to Plan and Respond. Among NOAA's strategies for achieving this goal are: 1) Improve the quality and quantity of climate observations, analyses, interpretation, and archiving by maintaining a consistent climate record and by improving our ability to determine why changes are taking place, and 2) Improve the quantification and understanding of the forces bringing about climate change by examining relevant human-induced increases in atmospheric constituents. SMCD will contribute to implementation of both strategies.

The Aviation Weather Program of NOAA's Commerce and Transportation Goal focuses on improving observation, forecast and training capabilities to deliver long term reduction in the number of weather-related aviation mishaps and the number and extent of weather-related flight delays. SMCD contributes to the Aviation Weather Program by developing tailored satellite-based aviation weather hazards products for the air transportation sector.

Responding to these satellite technology and user requirements drivers, SMCD has developed road maps for 17 focused projects. These road maps will guide the Division's R&D program over the next 5 years and beyond. Each Project Road Map has its own goals, objectives, and timeline. The Project Road Maps' milestones represent the building blocks that are necessary for achieving the individual Project Goals.

To monitor the success of the its research and development program, SMCD has adopted a number of overarching Performance Targets as well as Performance Targets for each of the NOAA goals to which it contributes.

SMCD, through the satellite-based products and data sets it develops and generates, and its science, contributes to most of NOAA's strategic goals. A chapter of this document summarizes how SMCD helps NOAA meet many of the objectives under these goals.

Achievement of SMCD's Performance Targets will be facilitated by a dramatic increase in satellite observing capabilities over the next 5 years, its world-class core of civil servant scientists and an extremely competent cadre of supporting contractors and post-docs/visiting scientists, its collegial atmosphere, and advances in computing and communications technologies. Potential constraints include lack of sufficient computing power, limited scientific capability in new instrument areas: active instruments, APS, ERBS, TSIS, limited ground truth, and anticipated loss of senior scientific staff as a result of retirement.

The challenges are great - the opportunities greater.


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