Monthly News Summary – September 1997

September 29, 1997 | Abigail Mindock

In the News: September 1997

A record of SSEC media appearances compiled for September 1997. Direct comments, questions, and information about other SSEC references to Terri Gregory, SSEC’s Public Information Specialist.

Fine Tuning MODIS

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As the launch nears for the first satellite in Mission to Planet Earth’s Earth Observing System, instrument science teams meet to fine-tune the process for getting it into orbit.

Once the satellite is in orbit around the Earth, instruments that have been calibrated on Earth must be recalibrated for their new environment. As noted in The Earth Observer for May/June 1997, Chris Moeller, CIMSS researcher and participant in calibration activities for the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), joined the argument for making a maneuver to take deep-space views to properly calibrate instruments. He said that “there could be major delays in data processing if no maneuver is performed.” An alternate way to make calibration corrections, using Earth-scene regression, is time-consuming and not as reliable as the deep-space view.

Several CIMSS researchers are developing products for MODIS. Chris reported on cloud mask development, noting that “a good cloud mask is essential for obtaining accurate MODIS-derived SSTs.” A cloud mask distinguishes between cloudy and cloud-free areas of an image, particularly important for gathering sea surface temperatures (SSTs) over the ocean.

Steve Ackerman noted changes made to the cloud mask product. The changes were made in response to reviews of the cloud mask program. The wetland processing path flag, a computer code variable, was replaced with a desert processing path flag. Also, a spare bit (bit 12) will be replaced with a flag to indicate that an adjacent pixel is cloudy.

Paul Menzel (NOAA teamleader at SSEC) is a prominent member of the MODIS Science Team, composed of researchers from institutions across the U.S., including SSEC.

SSEC on the Airwaves

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Cindi Krause, from WISC2, interviewed Evan Richards on in Focus on September 9. Cindi summarized for viewers recent mishaps on the ill-starred Mir space station. Evan, SSEC’s Engineering Manager, brought perspective, reminding viewers of the inherent dangers of space. When Cindi asked whether it was safe for cosmonauts and astronauts to be on Mir, Evan answered, “Safe is a relative term.” He told how many of Mir’s parts are older than the eleven year-old station making it necessary to fix things as they break. He said that American astronauts are on Mir for real-world experience that will be valuable for the international space station.

SSEC supplied a number of satellite images and movies, especially of hurricanes, to producers of Storm Warning. Watch the Discovery Channel listings at the beginning of October.

SSEC in Print

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Bob Paulos wrote the President’s Message in the Septermber issue of the MASA Newsletter, the monthly publication of the Madison Academic Staff Association. Bob, MASA president this year, encourages us to attend MASA luncheons “that honor the previous year’s Academic Staff Excellence Award winners. … The [luncheons] feature some of the best and brightest academic staff.”

The August 27 issue of Wisconsin Week covered contrail research published over the summer by Steve Ackerman and colleagues. The research was noted in Summer Wrap-up, a section covering news that broke during the summer while the campus paper was on vacation.

SSEC on the ‘Net

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SSEC’s new Volcano Watch uses the Web to display images of the ten most active volcanoes around the world–those most likely to have observable volcanic clouds. As noted in a Michigan Tech University press release, “The site provides high resolution satellite images renewed automatically every half hour utilizing visible data in daylight, infrared at night.” The release was posted on the New Heaven/New Earth Web site. The volcano site was made possible in part by funding from IBM.

Steve Ackerman supplied answers to two questions on the Scientific American Web site. He was one of four experts to answer, “Why do clouds always appear to form in distinct clumps?” His was the most complete answer. In a future issue of Ask the Expert, Steve will explain St. Elmo’s Fire.

Take a look at NorthWest Weather for a fast-loading GOES-8 visible image. The image is on the NorthWest BuildNet site run by George Hug. The site is devoted to news, marketing, and resources for the architecture, engineering and construction industries in the Pacific Northwest. With the image, the site gives SSEC lavish credit, including our Web site’s opening paragraph.

Kirk Petersen, Webmaster for the NOAA West Network of NOAA agencies in the western United States, links to SSEC’s Real-Time Data page in “Featured activities for September 1997.”