The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission managed by NASA has allowed the space agency to develop 3D maps of rain and snowfall around the world. A new video, showing precipitation from April to September 2014, has been released by the space agency.
Included in this film is Hurricane Arthur, as it turned into a tropical storm over the Atlantic Ocean from July 2 to 4. Storms are seen from 60 degrees north latitude to 60 degrees below the equator - roughly from the Northwest Territories of Canada to beyond the southern coast of Argentina.
The GPM Core Observatory was launched one year ago, on February 27, 2014, on a mission to coordinate a dozen satellites, managed by several nations, measuring precipitation around the globe. The spacecraft is capable of merging data from each of the observatories into a single map, called Imerg, or Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM. Snow and rainfall can be seen in the composite map with a resolution of five miles by five miles, and data is collected once every 30 minutes. This system is the first mission to combine data from an international group of satellites to monitor rainfall and snow in near-real time.
"In this imagery, you can see the deep tropical convective storms popping up along the equator. These evaporate heat from the ocean's surface and transport it high into the atmosphere for redistribution in the Earth's system," Gail Skofronick-Jackson from the Goddard Space Flight Center said.
Large frontal systems, which can last for days, are seen in the video at middle latitudes, moving heat and water across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The Global Precipitation Measurement mission is designed to determine the exact shape of raindrops, utilizing an advanced radar instrument aboard the GPM Core Observatory. Although many people believe drops of rain are shaped like teardrops, the actual shape as they fall is flattened on bottom, and rounded on top, similar to the shape of a hamburger bun. Determining the exact shape of droplets could help researchers better understand global patterns of precipitation. Heavier rainfall is usually accompanied by flatter, heavier drops, compared to lighter showers.
Over the last year, NASA has launched five Earth-observing satellites, including the GPM Core Observatory. Together, the spacecraft will provide a vast amount of new data on how precipitation, carbon dioxide, ocean winds and other factors contribute to weather around the globe.
"Being able to observe falling snow from satellites is very important for all of society and science too. For example, snow is a vital contributor to water resources in many parts of the world, including the western United States. Snow packs that accumulate over the winter melt during the spring to supply water for drinking and agriculture," Skofronick-Jackson said.
Information on precipitation events from the observatory network will be made available to the public within four hours of the event, assisting emergency personnel responding to natural disasters.