Although ordinary people are used to weather forecasts once a day, fast-changing weather is not a one-size-fits-all, let alone military action. The latest news is that data on Earth soil moisture collected by NASA’s orbiting satellites has been used to improve the U.S. Air Force’s weather forecasts. The satellite, called the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) spacecraft, is actually sent to the 557th Meteorological Unit at Air Force Headquarters to improve weather warnings and advice in the development of military operations in various theatres.
(Photo from: NASA / JPL-Caltech, via New Atlas)
Soil moisture is also an important factor in military weather forecasting, NASA said, because it can influence cloud formation through evaporation and condensation.
Frank Ruggiero, chief engineer of the Air Force’s Numerical Weather Simulation Program from Hanscombe Air Force Base in Lexington, Massachusetts, said:
We have a much deeper view of the weather than the average person. Usually, people just need to know whether it’s going to be sunny or cloudy and decide whether to go to the beach.
Clouds, however, affect the signals of many instruments, and 3D cloud maps can tell the extent of the impact, but we need to explain them in more detail.
Since November 19, 2019, SMAP has been measuring water content in surface soil sits 2 inches (5 CM) above the ground and injecting the data into the Air Force’s meteorological analysis computer.
NASA’s Land Information System (LIS) weather software is already using this data. It uses advanced digital technology to simulate weather and climate, and its collaboration with the Air Force dates back to 2005.
Prior to SMAP’s launch in 2015, the agency had been using data from old satellites. However, as the model improves, newer, higher-quality SMAPPs have been recognized.
NASA notes, however, that the new data is not intended to enhance the ability of weather forecasters at the civilian level, but rather to be based on a unified model developed by the Met Office and modified for military applications.
SMAP data has been used by 10 organizations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Korea. But this is the first time the U.S. Air Force has used it in an operational near-real-time environment.
Jerry Wegiel, NASA’s Goddard support scientist from Offutt Air Force Base, says:
Thanks to this multi-agency collaboration, unified model developers are using NASA’s LIS to validate. The Air Force is providing valuable information to unified model partners in an effort to transfer that capability to future combat kits.