NOAA, NASA Activate New Satellite Instrument to Monitor Health and Recovery of Earth’s Ozone Layer

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 24, 2012

Artist rendering of the National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite (NPP).

Artist rendering of the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite (NPP), which NASA launched on October 28, 2011 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (Credit: NOAA)

In the near future, NOAA scientists will begin using data from an advanced instrument to monitor the health of Earth’s stratospheric ozone, a layer in the atmosphere that shields the world’s population from harmful levels of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
The Ozone Mapper Profiler Suite, or OMPS, is one of five new instruments flying aboard NASA’s Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite (Suomi NPP), which was launched on October 28, 2011. OMPS measures stratospheric ozone, which has eroded over the years as a result of chlorine and bromine from human-produced substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons.

In the 1970s, scientists predicted that an increase in CFCs would significantly deplete Earth’s ozone layer. The 1987 United Nations Montreal Protocol agreement protected the ozone layer by phasing out and then eliminating the use of ozone-depleting substances.

The Earth's Ozone Layer as Seen by Suomi NPP.

The Earth’s Ozone Layer as Seen by Suomi NPP
A cross-section of the Earth’s ozone layer as measured by the limb profiler, part of the Ozone Mapper Profiler Suite that’s aboard the Suomi NPP satellite. A new instrument, the limb profiler makes high vertical resolution measurements of of the ozone layer, a shield that protects the Earth’s surface from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet radiation. Smaller amounts of overhead ozone is shown in blue, while larger amounts are shown in orange and yellow. Suomi NPP is a partnership between NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense. Download here. (Credit: NASA/NOAA)

OMPS is designed to look at the upper parts of the atmosphere and tell where ozone is distributed. It will help verify the beginning of the recovery of the ozone layer during the coming few decades, a crucial period when the layer is expected to recover from the effects of the ozone depleting substances.

“Ozone depletion has been a major concern for decades,” said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. “Scientists need reliable technology that tracks ozone from space, and OMPS gives us the opportunity.”

“With the large ozone depletion seen in the Arctic in March 2011, it was critical to get OMPS into orbit for measurements in the Northern Hemisphere,” said Paul Newman, NASA scientist and co-chair of the United Nations Montreal Protocol Scientific Assessment Panel.

The OMPS continues a long partnership between NASA and NOAA and consists of three instruments–the downward-looking nadir mapper and nadir profiler, and a new instrument called the limb profiler. The OMPS limb profiler looks at the atmosphere from the side and very accurately estimates how the ozone is distributed. The OMPS nadir mapper and nadir profiler look down at the atmosphere and monitor the total column ozone amounts with full global coverage.

The Suomi NPP team will continue initial checkouts as part of its commissioning activities until early March and then handoff operations to NOAA. NOAA will continue calibration and validation activities and leading to the processing and distribution of data to users around the world.

Thirty Years of Ozone over the South Pole.

Thirty Years of Ozone over the South Pole 
This shows the thickness of the Earth’s ozone layer on January 27th from 1982 to 2012. This atmospheric layer protects Earth from dangerous levels of solar ultraviolet radiation. The thickness is measured in Dobson units, in this image, smaller amounts of overhead ozone are shown in blue, while larger amounts are shown in orange and yellow.  These ozone measurements begin with the Nimbus 7 satellite; continue with the Earth Probe Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (EP TOMS); the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) aboard the Aura satellite; and the most recent, the Ozone Mapper Profiler Suite (OMPS) aboard the satellite Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP). Suomi NPP is a partnership between NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense. Download here. (Credit: NASA/NOAA)

The Suomi NPP mission is the bridge between NOAA’s Polar Operation Environmental Satellite (POES) and NASA’s Earth Observing System satellites to the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), which NOAA will operate.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the Suomi NPP mission for the Earth Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. NOAA and the Department of Defense funded the OMPS instrument. The JPSS program, funded by NOAA, provides the satellite ground system for Suomi NPP. NOAA is also providing operational support.

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Source: noaa.gov