MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Beth Murrill (818) 354-6478
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEFebruary 4, 2000
NEW RESULTS SHOW WHICH WAY THE WIND BLOWS OVER THE OCEANS
Scientists, weather forecasters and the public take
possession of a valuable stream of meteorological and climate
observations this week, as the first calibrated measurements from
NASA's SeaWinds instrument on the Quikscat satellite become
available -- information that can improve weather forecasting
around the world.
Access to daily wind data and animations from the ocean-wind
tracker, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL),
Pasadena, Calif., is available on the Internet at
http://podaac.jpl.nasa.gov/quikscat and at
"We're opening the tap on this global data to the world,"
said Dr. Michael Freilich, principal investigator on SeaWinds and
a professor at Oregon State University, Corvallis. The
measurements and data products show developing weather systems
with unprecedented detail.
"SeaWinds measurements of the direction and strength of the
winds at the ocean surface give us new knowledge that, in
combination with satellite measurements of clouds, temperature
and other data, can be used for understanding how different
weather systems and storms develop, and for predicting weather over the
entire globe," Freilich said. The measurements, he added, also
are crucial for understanding ocean currents, climate patterns,
and the cyclical and anomalous variations that occur in those patterns.
The heart of SeaWinds is a specially designed spaceborne
radar instrument called a scatterometer. The radar operates at a
microwave frequency that penetrates clouds. This, coupled with
the satellite's polar orbit, makes the wind systems over the
entire world's oceans visible to SeaWinds on a daily basis. The
measurements provide detailed information about ocean winds,
waves, currents, polar ice features and other phenomena, for the
benefit of meteorologists, climatologists, oceanographers and
SeaWinds was launched June 19, 1999, and engineers and
scientists have successfully calibrated the satellite and
verified the accuracy of its data over the past few months.
"This new knowledge of winds over the oceans is essential
for many oceanographic, meteorological and climate
investigations, as well as for improving regional and global
operational weather predictions," said climate researcher Dr.
Ralph Milliff of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in
Boulder, Colo. "SeaWinds data are eagerly anticipated by these
research and operational communities."
"Near real-time wind-vector measurements from SeaWinds
represent a vast improvement in coverage over the generally data-
sparse oceans," said SeaWinds science team member Dr. Paul Chang
of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National
Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service. "SeaWinds
data will be used operationally by marine forecasters and for
numerical weather prediction models. These data promise to yield
significant improvements in short-term warnings and forecasts and
in medium- to long-range forecasts."
The orbiting SeaWinds radar instrument is managed for NASA's
Office of Earth Science, Washington, D.C., by JPL, which also
oversaw development of the SeaWinds radar instrument and is
providing ground science-processing systems. NASA's Goddard
Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., managed development of the
satellite, designed and built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies
Corp., Boulder, Colo. NOAA is contributing to ground system
processing and distributing SeaWinds data in near-real time to
the international operational weather forecasting community. NASA
and NOAA are working together to transition these critical wind
measurements from research to operational missions to improve the
accuracy of current weather forecasts and to extend forecast
projections from three to five days.
NASA's Earth Science Enterprise is a long-term research and
technology program designed to examine Earth's land, oceans,
atmosphere, ice and life as a total integrated system. More
information about the Office of Earth Sciences can be found on
the Internet at http://www.earth.nasa.gov .
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology