The University of Hawaii has installed a new X/L band antenna and satellite downlink that follows satellites that are part of the Polar Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) system. The university installation is intended to capture real time data useful for weather and ocean forecasts as the satellites pass over Hawaii. The project is a collaboration between UH Manoa, the National Weather Service (NWS) Honolulu Forecast Office (HFO), NWS Pacific Region Headquarters, the University of Wisconsin, and Honolulu Community College, where the antenna is installed.
According to Dr. Steven Businger, Meteorology Professor at the UH-Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and the lead scientist on the project, data received from polar orbiting satellites via the downlink system will aide SOEST researchers and NWS forecasters in improving forecasts of three hazards that are critical to the tropical Pacific: heavy rainfall, tropical cyclones, and detection and modeling of volcanic emissions, as well as monitor the thermal activity of Kilauea volcano. "Being in the middle of the ocean, Hawaii relies more on satellite data than the mainland where other data sources are more widespread," said Businger, who is also the chair of Unidata's Policy committee. "The new system ensures that in real-time we get high resolution satellite data that are relevant to local conditions."
The NWS HFO relies on accurate and timely satellite information from across the Pacific. In the past, without a Hawaii-based downlink facility, the HFO experienced a six-hour delay in receiving data from local satellite scans. The new system allows real-time downloading of sea surface temperature, ocean color, cloud temperature, cloud cover, and high-resolution cloud imagery from polar-orbiting satellites.
Further capabilities of the new system include collection of high-resolution images at night and detection of thunderstorms that were previously not as clearly visible. In combination, the additional data and quick turnaround can help improve forecasts of local conditions. "The new facility allows us to view night-time shower activity as clearly as during the day in GOES visible images," said Robert Ballard, the Science and Operations Officer at the NWS HFO. "And it gives us an important back-up view should images from the GOES satellite be disrupted for any reason."
The satellite downlink system is a part of the GOES-R Proving Ground, which aims to better prepare forecasters and scientists for the arrival of GOES-R satellite data by developing simulated GOES-R products that can be tested and evaluated before the GOES-R satellite becomes operational. Test products are generated using combinations of currently available GOES data, along with higher resolution data provided by instruments on polar-orbiting satellites.
According to Businger, the project team is investigating
making polar orbiter satellite data available to the Unidata
community, and would like feedback from the community to guage
the level of interest. Comments and questions can be directed
UHM Professor of Meteorology