Key Climate Sensor Restored to NPOESS

May 2, 2008

A sensor considered critical in monitoring global climate will be restored to the first satellite scheduled to fly in the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) top officials from NOAA, NASA, and the Air Force said yesterday.

Artists concept of NPOESS satellite.

Artists concept of NPOESS satellite.

High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)

At a meeting of the tri-agency NPOESS Executive Committee (EXCOM), the members agreed to restore the Total Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS), which measures the total amount of solar energy coming into the Earth’s atmosphere, a fundamental element in understanding climate change. The sensor had been removed during the 2006 restructuring of the NPOESS program.

Yesterday’s decision follows a January 2008 agreement to place another climate sensor — the Clouds and Earth Radiant Energy System (CERES) — on the NPOESS Preparatory Project, the precursor mission for NPOESS. The CERES will complement the TSIS measurements by shedding light on how clouds influence the Earth’s energy balance and the role they play in regulating climate.

“We need these sensors to help us better differentiate between the natural and human causes of climate change, and monitor the long-term energy shifts tied to climate change,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

The EXCOM decision builds on the Administration’s commitment to restore climate sensors that had been removed from NPOESS. In April 2007, NOAA and NASA jointly announced they would restore the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) Limb, a critical instrument for measuring the vertical distribution of ozone, to NPP.

"The Air Force believes that the NPOESS program has made significant improvement since its 2006 restructuring. More importantly, the re-manifesting of TSIS will not jeopardize the program’s schedule or financial baselines," said Gary E. Payton, the Air Force’s Deputy Under Secretary for Space Programs. “NPOESS is a critical element of our future environmental sensing capabilities that will benefit the entire nation.”

Lautenbacher added, “NOAA, in collaboration with its partners, stands committed to addressing satellite-based requirements of the climate science community, and this latest decision to restore the priority sensors is a step in the right direction.”

NOAA and NASA, in partnership with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, are continuing to analyze a range of future satellite missions to provide continuity in the climate measurements made by TSIS.

NPOESS will combine NOAA’s current polar-orbiting satellite operations with the Defense Department’s Meteorological Satellite Program into one system. With the launch of the first spacecraft planned for 2013, NPOESS will bring improved data and imagery, paving the way for better weather forecasts, severe-weather monitoring and improved detection of climate change.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.