Article Review – Article Example

First Last NUMBER Evolutions in Cloud Tracking Systems The importance of clouds in our weather patterns and environment cannot be underestimated. The need to understand and accurately predict how clouds behave is critically important to understanding how and what the climate is doing on a Macro scale. Satellites have demonstrated a unique capability for monitoring many cloud properties on a global basis. Satellites in geostationary orbits high above the atmosphere can get a clear, big picture of Earths cloud formations. (Turner et al. 9.15) By analyzing cloud patterns, scientists can forecast how these clouds will change and move, and make accurate assumptions about our weather environment and how it is changing on a global scale.
Scientists monitor cloud height and motion data to calculate wind speed and height. . (Turner et al. 9:15) The completeness of this data is paramount to predicting future weather events. Currently, Satellite systems are limited in scope and capabilities often failing to provide precise pictures of weather formations across oceans and at higher latitudes.( Horvath 28:2915 ) The current generation of Satellites operates from an orbit above the equator, obtaining images of the Earth’s surface; however, they are limited by their position in space and the curvature of the Earth which prevents them from seeing the distant cloud formations in the Northern and Southern latitudes. (Horvath 28:2915) The exact limitations of these satellites mean they can only classify wind heights as low, middle, and high, rather than at precise altitudes. This inadequacy creates a “gap” in the completeness of the data that scientists are attempting to interpret.
The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) launched a new Satellite to rectify and improve the cloud data collection system. The Multi-angle Imaging Spectro-Radiometer (MISR) was a part of the payload launched in December 1999. (Turner et al. 9:18) The MISR instrument continuously acquires a systematic, global, multi-angle image of reflected sunlight over the entire planet at one time.(Turner et al. 9:18) In the case of the space borne MISR instrument with its unique configuration of nine fixed push broom cameras, the satellite continuously and autonomously collects and geo-locates image data that can be applied to a scientific algorithm to obtain hyper-detailed cloud data for any spot on the globe.
The MISR satellites incredible accuracy is based on a pattern recognition algorithm that uses MISR imaging data to recognize the same cloud from different angles shot from different cameras on the satellite. (Horvath 28:2916) The algorithm then derives the cloud motion and height and uses the data to calculate the position of the cloud and predict its future potential. This Algorithm is the key to improving short-term weather forecasting. And the range data of the cloud height and motion will benefit long-term climate studies that are attempting to deduce the effects of global warming and climate change.
NASA is currently studying a smaller simplified version of the MISR satellite that could redact like the Global Positioning System network and provide a more comprehensive and inter-laced constellation of satellites that would provide weather imaging that would be light years ahead of any current satellite capability. .( Horvath 28:2917) With each new weather season the importance of accurate cloud mapping and predictions take on a new sense of urgency as our climate continues to evolve and change in violent and unpredictable patterns.
Works Cites
Turner, D. D, Thin liquid water clouds: Their importance and our challenge, Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 9:15-18, in press. June, 2007
Horvath, A. and R. Davies, Simultaneous retrieval of cloud motion and height from polar-orbiter multi-angle measurements. Geophysical Research Letters 28:2915-2918. August 2001