Satellites "On Track" With Hurricane Research

This graphic (not to scale) depicts the satellites that make up the Afternoon Constellation -- The “A-Train." Note also that CALIPSO trails CloudSat by only 17.5 seconds to allow for synergy between Aqua, CloudSat, and CALIPSO. Aura, originally positioned 15 minutes behind Aqua, was relocated in May 2008 to enable better coincidence between its Microwave Limb Sounder instrument and CloudSat’s radar instrument.

The drawing also depicts the 2 newest members to be added to the A-Train: Glory, a NASA Goddard mission scheduled for launch next year, and GCOM-W1, a JAXA mission scheduled for launch in 2011. Credit: Ed Hanka NASA has several satellites that orbit the Earth one behind the other on the same track. They're called the "A-Train" and one of the things they study is tropical cyclones. There are also other satellites outside the A-Train that are used to study different aspects of tropical cyclones. The satellites that form the A-Train provide unique information about tropical cyclones, the collective term for tropical depressions, tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons.

"Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are both a curse and a blessing for highly populated tropical and subtropical nations, bringing both terrible destruction and life-sustaining rainfall each year," said Bill Patzert, climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Many scientists have hypothesized that in the future our warming climate will change hurricane-induced rainfall patterns, perhaps increasing the destructive power of these storms. NASA, NOAA and university scientists are mining the wealth of scientific information from A-Train instruments to improve our understanding of current and future hurricanes. These data will help officials plan for better coastal protection and the most effective public policy."

The A-Train satellite formation currently consists of five satellites flying in close proximity: Aqua, CloudSat, CALIPSO, PARASOL and Aura.

Each satellite in the A-Train crosses the equator within a few minutes of each another at around 1:30 p.m. local time. By combining the different sets of nearly simultaneous observations, scientists are able to gain a better understanding of important parameters related to climate change. The two primary satellites in the A-Train that contribute to hurricane research are Aqua and CloudSat. The other satellites provide important information about clouds and aerosols that assist with hurricane research.

So why put all of these different satellites in a "train"? By combining the satellites and their data, scientists are able to gain a better understanding of important parameters related to the behavior of hurricanes, in addition to climate change information. The A-Train formation allows for simultaneous coordinated measurements. Data fr

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