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NOAA's New Cooperative Institute Advances National Climate Service
SILVER SPRING, Maryland, May 28, 2009 (ENS) - U.S. government and university scientists are partnering to form a new cooperative institute that will use satellite observations to detect, monitor and forecast climate change and its impact on the environment.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, will work with experts from the University of Maryland and North Carolina State University to create the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, NOAA announced today.

The institute is part of NOAA's ongoing effort to create a National Climate Service to provide longer-term forecasts and warnings related to climate change, just as the National Weather Service does for storms and other short-term weather changes.

The institute will gather "some of the best minds to study satellite imagery and data will shed more light on how our climate is changing," said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service.

"To help us understand climate change, we have to find ways to best leverage all of our available resources, including the information we get from satellites," she said.

A next generation GOES-R satellite (Image by Lockheed Martin courtesy NOAA)
The institute, which will receive up to $93 million in funding over the next five years, will have two centers one at the University of Maryland in College Park, adjacent to the site of the planned NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction, and the other at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

"Establishing this Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites is a major step forward in the NOAA-led effort to create a National Climate Service that would provide longer-term forecasts and warnings related to climate change, just as the National Weather Service does for storms and other short term weather changes," said University of Maryland climate scientist Phillip Arkin, who will serve as director of the institute.

"Our new institute will combine satellite observations with advanced climate change modeling to produce the kinds of services, like long-term regional drought assessments, that such a Climate Service will provide," Arkin said.

"In the long run, our goal at Maryland and in the new cooperative institute is to develop climate products that will meet social needs and give decision-makers the kind of tailored information that will help them devise more effective adaptation and investment strategies," said Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center Director Antonio Busalacchi.

"At this stage, we need to develop better tools that will make our climate change research, predictions, and assessments more useful and actionable," said Busalacchi, who chairs the World Climate Research Programme's Joint Scientific Committee.

"This is an excellent step towards observing and documenting climate impacts on national and regional scales, and a wonderful partnership between government and academia that will be a major player in climate research," says Dr. Otis Brown, who will direct the institute for North Carolina State.

Other partners of the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites include: City University of New York, Columbia University, Colorado State University, Duke University, Howard University, Princeton University, Oregon State University, the University of California at Irvine, the University of Miami, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Remote Sensing Systems, a company in Santa Rosa, California.

In addition to studying data from satellites currently in operation, scientists will extract climate data from two next generation satellite systems the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R series, or GOES-R, and the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, or NPOESS.

NOAA announced Wednesday the selection of Harris Corporation Government Communications Systems Division, based in Melbourne, Florida, to develop the GOES-R ground system. The system will capture, process and distribute information from the GOES-R satellites to users around the world.

Planet Earth as viewed from a satellite positioned over the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean (Image courtesy NASA)

Worth $736 million, the contract requires Harris to design, develop, test and implement the GOES-R ground system. The award was the result of a full and open competitive procurement process following federal acquisition regulations, said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

The GOES-R series of spacecraft, set to begin launching in 2015, is expected to double the clarity of today's satellite imagery and provide at least 20 times more atmospheric observations from space.

The ground system is composed of computers which control the satellite and process the satellite's data into products scientists can use.

"NOAA's satellites are a crucial tool for weather forecasters and scientists. They help predict the path of dangerous storms and give us a greater understanding of our changing climate," said Lubchenco. "This award will generate nearly 300 jobs for the aerospace industry and will ensure NOAA remains on the cutting edge of satellite technology."

National Weather Service forecasters will be some of the primary users of GOES-R data. They will see detailed images of potentially deadly hurricanes every 30 seconds, instead of every 7.5 minutes, which the current system provides.

Experts with the GOES-R program, and NOAA's national data centers will use the Comprehensive Large Array-data Stewardship System to preserve the satellite data for future climate science research.

The GOES-R ground system will be developed and operated at the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland and at the Wallops Command and Data Acquisition Station in Wallops Island, Virginia. NOAA says the system will be designed to ensure continuity of operations during severe weather and other threat scenarios.

Earlier this month, NOAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that Lockheed Martin Space Systems, was chosen to build the GOES-R satellites through a separate contract.

NOAA supports 23 cooperative institutes across the United States to promote research, education, training and outreach aligned with NOAA's mission. Cooperative institutes collaborate with NOAA scientists, coordinate resources among all non-government partners and promote the involvement of students and post-doctoral scientists in NOAA-funded research.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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