Author Topic: The Birth of NOAA's Polar-Orbiting Satellites: A Brief History  (Read 387 times)

Offline catdlr

  • Member
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4687
  • Marina del Rey, California, USA
  • Liked: 1491
  • Likes Given: 921
NOAASatellites
Published on Oct 26, 2017


In the 1950s, at the advent of the space race, scientists around the globe believed that satellites held tremendous potential for forecasting the weather more than 24 hours in advance. This video tells the story of some of the scientists who worked to realize that potential, and the development of the United States' first polar-orbiting weather satellites--the precursors to the satellites of today's Joint Polar Satellite System spacecraft.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POr-J-dnMIg?t=001

Tony De La Rosa

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10986
  • Liked: 2454
  • Likes Given: 1
The video is about six minutes long. There are some rather odd production choices in that video:

-starting with the space race and then jumping right to 1964 and Nimbus, skipping Tiros entirely
-using actors to read quotes from early scientists instead of having the scientists speak themselves
-a bouncing timeline

It actually gets more interesting and substantive in the second half, when they discuss interpreting the data and using it for weather forecasts. My guess is that they had better information on that than the earlier (Tiros) stuff. What the video does convey well is how it was unclear that satellites could actually take the kind of data (atmospheric temperature and pressure, etc.) that would be useful for forecasts. It took awhile to prove that.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10986
  • Liked: 2454
  • Likes Given: 1
There's actually a very important point made in the last 30 seconds of the video: NOAA established an "open data policy" for its weather satellite data, sharing it with everybody around the world. That created a sharing standard so that other countries also shared their data when they acquired it. Now U.S. weather forecasters use European data, Russian data, even Chinese data. (Actually, I think somebody explained to me that NOAA does not use Chinese data in its forecasting models, but it does use the data to check the forecasts.)

This is a relevant issue today, because some people suggest that NOAA does not need its own satellites but could instead "buy data" from commercially operated satellites, letting market forces prevail and presumably resulting in a cheaper product and government savings. (I don't think that anybody who is actually involved in weather satellites or forecasting is suggesting this, it usually comes from people with an ideological bent who are unfamiliar with the subject area.)

The problem with that argument is that NOAA has sharing agreements with various countries--we share our data for free and you share your data for free. But if the US was to switch to a data purchase approach, that data would most likely come with a provision that it not be shared. And if the US stopped sharing its data, the foreign partners would stop sharing their data. (There's another aspect to this as well, which is that in the past the US and Europe have actually lent each other their satellites to fill gaps in coverage, and this too would be impossible if those satellites were not controlled by the government.)



Tags: