The launch of the NASA/NOAA NPP satellite seems to have gone off without a hitch this morning which is great news. This satellite has instruments that are vital to continuing data streams that were pioneered on the aging TERRA (1999), AQUA (2002) and AURA (2004), satellites – including the CERES instrument for monitoring the Earth’s radiation budget, a microwave sounder to continue the AMSU data and a visible/IR camera to complement the work of MODIS.
We really need to apologise for the acronym soup though – it is an endemic disease in satellite discussions. Indeed, NPP is a recursive acronym, standing for NPOESS Preparatory Project, where NPOESS stands for the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System.
Another satellite mission we’ve mentioned here, Aquarius (launched in June), has recently released its first results on ocean salinity:
The patterns are not particularly surprising, there is higher salinity in the sub-tropical evaporative regions, lower salinity near the equator (because of the rain!), and particularly low salinity near big river outflows (the Amazon plume stands out clearly). However, as we noted earlier, the main interest is going to be in the variability.
Results from the NPP mission will take a while to come out and be cross-calibrated with the existing records, but given other recent disappointments (GLORY and OCO), this is a huge boost to the effort to monitor the Earth System.