Hurry & Collaborate to Weather the Storm

Sudha Nagaraj Bharadwaj, Journalist | 11/14/2012 | 5 comments

Sudha Nagaraj Bharadwaj
Hurricane Sandy has taught some important lessons about how to handle expensive space missions -- collaborate to cut costs, collaborate to get an edge, and collaborate to save citizens from the wrath of nature.

Surface winds of over 65 kms per hour wreaked havoc along the east coast in the US late October while Oceansat-2, a satellite from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) beamed data down to NASA to help the country defend itself against Hurricane Sandy.

The Oscat radio scatterometer on board Oceansat-2 is a unique instrument and there is significant demand from the global community to use the instrument for ocean research. Scatterometer data is used to derive the global wind velocity (magnitude and direction) over the ocean surface, which is used as an input for weather forecasting, monitoring of cyclones and hurricanes and their trajectory, monitoring polar sea ice changes and forecasting. According to ISRO, the scatterometer provides data on wind speeds accurate to plus or minus 10 percent in speed and 20 degrees in wind direction.

Nasa sought Isro's help as its QuikSat satellite, a system very similar to Oceansat-2, stopped operating in November 2009. The US weather satellite GOES-East also malfunctioned in September and was taken offline. A National Council report warns that there could be a drop in weather satellites in the US, from 23 to 6 by 2020, highlighting the need for global cooperation.

ISRO, NASA, and USNOAA have agreed to share Oceansat-2 data, and ISRO has been making the most of international cooperation through MoUs and agreements for some time. Data from Megha Tropiques, a joint venture between India and France launched on October 12, 2011 generate improved current-weather variables leading to better forecasts not just for India, but for the entire tropical region. In addition to India and France, 21 scientific teams from Australia, Brazil, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Niger, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the US await data from this satellite as it is the first of eight satellites meant for Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM).

Another collaborative effort between ISRO and CNES (French Space Agency) is Saral, aimed at the study of ocean levels. It is slated for a December 12, 2012 launch.

In fact, at the 39th Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research earlier this year, ISRO called for even more collaboration in space missions in order to reduce the cost. The 2012 Space Competitive Index by Futron notes that international collaboration is increasingly taking shape as a concerted space competitiveness strategy, especially among smaller agencies. Not surprising then that India's 100th space mission saw an Indian rocket launch its competitor's satellite.

Meanwhile, the just concluded Plenary of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites encouraged enhanced cooperation among participating agencies for effective societal decision making in the areas of climate change, forest monitoring, sustainable development, food and water security, and disaster risk management, through virtual constellations of satellites. That sounds like a good beginning.

It also sounds like the only way to move forward in space is to collaborate. It is good then that India has formed so many partnerships and continues to build on this strategy. They're finding themselves right where they need to be to weather the storms of the future.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Syerita Turner   Hurry & Collaborate to Weather the Storm   11/27/2012 8:15:47 AM
Re: Sandy and weather predictions
This just goes to prove that two heads are better than one. Being able to collaborate brings more ideas to the table that mainly one or even two people may not have thought of in order to gain maximum possibilities to derive at a solution and or innovative idea.
sohaibmasood   Hurry & Collaborate to Weather the Storm   11/14/2012 2:19:48 PM
Re: Sandy and weather predictions
David, rightly said. We only focus on the deviations from the normal. The regular predictions that hit the target are often ignored on the premise that predictions should generally hold true. 
Pedro Gonzales   Hurry & Collaborate to Weather the Storm   11/14/2012 2:09:19 PM
more collaboration always welcome
I think that more collaboration among different nations is crucial for weather forecasting, this way they can work together in establishing prepareness plans and aid.  Most forecasters are right most of the time, I was explained that the weather has so many factors thatneed to be taken into consideration that their decisions weather forecasters based their decision on probability.  More data and collaboration will help them to provide with exact information which will help people prepare for a natural disaster better.
David Wagner   Hurry & Collaborate to Weather the Storm   11/14/2012 12:54:32 PM
Re: Sandy and weather predictions
@geeky forecasts are right more than we think. it is just that when they're wrong, they're wrong about the thing we care about-- rain or snow altering our day. Think about all the days they predict it wll be sunny. We don't notice or care if it is right because they predicted sunny and it was sunny.

More imporantly, it is science like Sudha describes that will improve those forecasts.
geeky   Hurry & Collaborate to Weather the Storm   11/14/2012 7:39:03 AM
Sandy and weather predictions
Well IMO it's good to be prepared for the worst but in our part of the world it's almost impossible to be ready by listening to forecasts since most of the time the forecasts are completely wrong. Don't know what the reason is but nobody really focus much in the forecasts due to that


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