TECHNOLOGY WILL REVOLUTIONIZE FORECASTING
Langley GIFTS Will Provide Better Weather Information
Future meteorologists will be able to better predict the
weather, especially hurricanes and tornadoes, because of new
technology being developed at the NASA Langley Research Center in
Langley researchers will build and flight-test an instrument
called the Geostationary Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer or
GIFTS. Set for launch in 2003, GIFTS will measure elements of the
Earth's atmosphere and support space research aimed at reducing
risks from severe weather. It will be the third Earth-observing
mission under NASA's New Millennium Program and part of NASA's
ongoing effort to help science better understand our planet.
The mission will test advanced technologies for measuring
temperature, water vapor, wind and chemical composition of the
atmosphere. High-resolution measurements will be taken over time in
space and beamed down to Earth by satellite. Weather information
transmitted by GIFTS will be equivalent to that obtained by
launching 100,000 weather balloons every minute at intervals of two
miles. The system will also track the motion of clouds and
atmospheric pollutants. This kind of in-depth, up-to-the-minute
information could revolutionize weather forecasting and improve the
accuracy of three and five day predictions.
The GIFTS measurement concept was developed by Dr. William L.
Smith, Chief Atmospheric Scientist, at NASA Langley together with
scientists at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological
Satellite Studies at the University of Wisconsin & Madison and
the Space Dynamics Laboratory of Utah State University.
GIFTS will take atmospheric observation and prediction forward
by a quantum jump in just a few years, according to Smith. "GIFTS
will greatly improve environmental forecasts and reduce the risk of
hazardous weather and poor air quality to human safety and heath,"
The program will be managed by Langley under the leadership of
Wallace Harrison. Dr. Henry Revercomb of the University of
Wisconsin & Madison and Dr. Gail Bingham of Utah State
University are the co-investigators responsible for critical
engineering and technology components of GIFTS.
The mission uses an advanced imaging spectrometer that
incorporates breakthrough technologies, including large-area format
focal-plane detector arrays and new data-readout and
signal-processing electronics. ASRC, Inc., Composite Optics, Inc.,
Honeywell, Irvine Sensors, Inc., ITT, Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Lockheed Martin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln
Laboratory, Raytheon, Space Electronics, Inc., SSG, Texas A&M
University, TRW, and the University of New Mexico and engineers at
Langley will supply components for the GIFTS system.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the NASA
Aviation Safety Program and American Airlines are also part of the
GIFTS mission. NOAA's National Weather Service and National
Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service will validate
weather forecasting improvements. The Aviation Safety Program and
American Airlines will document how GIFTS observations help pilots
steer clear of potentially hazardous weather and whether better
flight level wind information, particularly over data sparse
oceanic regions, improves fuel management.
The public will see some direct benefits thanks to GIFTS'
education and outreach program. The program will offer enhanced
meteorology data to television weather forecasters. It will also
work with museums including the Virginia Air and Space Center on
meteorology exhibits and partner with Norfolk State University to
enhance teacher education and student participation in national
programs such as Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the
Environment (GLOBE). GIFTS outreach is managed by Dr. Sanjay
Limaye, University of Wisconsin, and locally by Dr. Arlene Levine,
Outreach and Education Manager for Langley's Atmospheric Science
Langley's design was one of four finalists out of 24 proposals
submitted in response to a NASA research announcement. NASA was
looking for innovative approaches for observing the Earth's surface
and atmosphere from positions outside low-Earth orbits, with an
emphasis on advanced measurement concepts and technologies NASA
Headquarters was in charge of the selection process which included
evaluations by external peer reviewers. The total NASA cost of the
mission, including contribution to launch, is expected to be about
More information on NASA's New Millennium Program is available
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