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Ozone layer is recovering, satellite data says

Worldwide action to phase out ozone-depleting substances has resulted in remarkable success, according to a new assessment by 300 international scientists released on 10 September. The stratospheric ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas that protects Earth from harmful ultraviolet light, is on track to recovery over the next few decades.


The most current ozone hole satellite data comes from the Ozone Monitoring and Profiler Suite (OMPS) instrument on the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, known as Suomi NPP, and the Ozone Monitoring Instrument and Microwave Limb Sounder on NASA's Aura satellite. The full report will be available in early 2015.

Suomi NPP is part of NOAA’s next generation Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) constellation of polar-orbiting environmental satellites. Suomi NPP, launched in October 2011, provides continuity for NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) and is a bridge between NOAA’s legacy Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites (POES) and the JPSS-1 satellite, now being built and integrated at the Ball Aerospace spacecraft manufacturing facility. NPP’s sensors have surpassed expectations for low noise and accuracy, and have provided useful data to forecasters beginning well before it gained operational status. Suomi NPP data, in conjunction with other polar weather satellite data, were essential to predicting the path of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy more than four days in advance. Suomi NPP extends the range of global forecasts three to seven days in advance of significant weather events.

In May 2014, NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service named Suomi NPP as its primary operational polar-orbiting satellite system for NOAA’s day-to-day operations. In 2012, NASA renamed NPP in honor of the late Verner E. Suomi, a meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin who is recognized widely as "the father of satellite meteorology."

OMPS, an advanced suite of three hyperspectral instruments, extends the 30-plus year total-ozone and ozone-profile records. OMPS products, when combined with cloud predictions, also help produce better ultraviolet index forecasts. Designed and built by Ball Aerospace, OMPS is one of five instruments that launched aboard Suomi NPP in 2011. A second OMPS flight unit built by Ball Aerospace will fly on the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) with its expected launch in 2017.

OMPS consists of a nadir mapper that will map global ozone with about 50-km ground resolution, a nadir profiler that will measure the vertical distribution of ozone in the stratosphere, and a limb profiler that measures ozone in the lower stratosphere and troposphere with high vertical resolution.

Sarah Lipscy is chief instrument scientist for OMPS at Ball Aerospace. OMPS measures ozone in our atmosphere from Suomi NPP. She leads a data-analysis team to characterize the OMPS performance in meeting pre-launch requirements. Lipscy received her PhD in astrophysics from UCLA. She studied the evolution of massive stars, and now works with space sensors that look back at Earth. She co-authored an open-access paper in the SPIE Optical Engineering journal (September 2013) entitled “New paradigm for rapid production of large precision optics: frozen membrane mirror technology.”

See a pre-launch profile of all five NPP instruments in the SPIE Newsroom.

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