BALTIMORE (WJZ)–Like most of us, NASA can’t do much about the weather.
As Alex DeMetrick reports, it is seeing rain and snow in a whole new way.
From space, tracking weather used to mean following clouds. Not any more.
DeMetrick: “This actually sees through the clouds?”
“Right. This is like an x-ray where you see through the clouds and see the precipitation,” said Dr. George Huffman, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
What’s doing the looking is NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement Mission, linking together the latest satellite with a number of others to produce a world view of rain and snow as it hits the earth. No cloud patterns, only what the clouds leave behind.
“The reds and greens are rainfall and the blues are snow. We haven’t really had a chance to estimate snow before,” said Dr. Huffman.
Knowing how much snow and rain hits the ground can help forecast what’s to come.
For example, our own winter on the east coast produced record snowfalls in Boston and much of New England.
“When that snow started to melt, thank goodness it didn’t happen all at once, but it could be important to know this kind of information, because you could be dealing with flash flooding down the road,” said WJZ Meteorologist Chelsea Ingram.
“If you lived in the northern plains, the snow pack sometimes melts catastrophically at the beginning of spring, so you would like to know how much water there is before it melts,” said Dr. Huffman.
In the western U.S., too little snow in the mountains means devastating drought. Now, a continent’s worth of mountain snow can be measured. It won’t bring relief, but it will give more accurate warning.
A number of nations have linked their satellites into the NASA mission, giving a world view of weather every thirty minutes.