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Weather Blog: NASA Launching Polar-Orbiting Satellite

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(credit: CBS) Lauren Casey
Lauren Casey joined the WCCO-TV weather team in August 2011, a...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Friday, NASA in coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will launch a new polar-orbiting environmental satellite. It will collect data critical to a myriad of functions, from forecasting severe weather and blizzards to tracking ash plumes from volcanic eruptions to measuring the amount of Arctic sea ice change.

The National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite is scheduled for lift-off between 2:48 a.m. and 2:57 a.m. PDT Friday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, hitching a ride aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

The NPP satellite will orbit the Earth every 102 minutes, passing directly above the Earth’s poles at an altitude 512 miles above the surface. Satellite data collected regarding the Earth’s land masses, oceans and atmosphere is used to generate weather forecast models meteorologists use to comprise daily forecasts, predict and track severe weather outbreaks, hurricanes, and blizzards.

Satellites also aide in the tracking of volcanic ash plumes, which, as we know from the Icelandic volcano eruption in April 2010, dispersed ash clouds that can cause enormous, far-reaching disruption to air travel. The NPP data will assist in emergency responders fight against wildfires, track the changes in the Earth’s ozone hole and record information pertinent to the advancement of climate science — to name a few objectives.

Data acquired from the NPP satellite and all in-use satellites provide crucial information that is utilized at the local and personal level of planning your wardrobe for the day’s weather, to the large-scale, world-community impacting level of long-term climate change and Arctic sea ice depletion. So, fire that rocket away, and send that satellite to space!

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