Through the Atmosphere Summer/Fall 2021

September 2, 2021 | Eric Verbeten
SSEC Director R. Bradley Pierce
Photo credit: Bryce Richter / UW-Madison

Imagining the impossible. We’ve come a long way since Verner Suomi, founder of SSEC, envisioned Earth observing satellites carrying instruments that would return data that was freely shared for the benefit of global citizens. He was, by many accounts, ahead of his time.

Through the Atmosphere Summer/Fall 2021

That spirit continues.

Earth Science has traditionally relied on large satellites to deliver data that informs research about our atmosphere. But now, two pioneering NASA missions, PREFIRE and TROPICS, are being developed by a new generation of scientists at SSEC and CIMSS. They are part of a paradigm shift. Both missions are employing the newest, miniaturized technologies in the form of CubeSats — from mission design to launch in just a few years versus a decade or more for larger satellites.

And both missions are poised to quickly deliver crucial information ranging from radiant energy in the Arctic to the mechanics of mid-latitude tropical cyclones on a time scale that was unthinkable 50 years ago.

As our climate warms — Arctic icesheets are melting and threatening habitats, tropical cyclones are increasing in intensity and threatening coastal cities — Earth System science has never been more important. PREFIRE and TROPICS, along with other research at SSEC and CIMSS, from droughts to precipitation, are among the programs charting new paths to a sustainable future.

We imagine the impossible and make it reality.

Read the issue here or download the PDF in magazine format.