Using Synthetic Data to Prepare for the NASA TROPICS Mission

In 2021, we anticipate the launch of The Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) satellite, which is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Earth Venture Mission designed for observing hurricanes (i.e. tropical cyclones, typhoons). TROPICS presents a unique opportunity in hurricane remote sensing though an unprecedented combination of horizontal and temporal resolution: this mission is expected to provide nearly all-weather observations of three-dimensional temperature and humidity, as well as cloud ice and precipitation horizontal structure, at a mean refresh rate of 30 minutes. These measurements will be available in both the inner-core and the external environment of hurricanes, allowing for the observation of dynamic processes and on mesoscale time scales which are often challenging to observe.

As an Early Adopter, NASA SPoRT is currently assessing the capabilities and applications of the upcoming TROPICS mission through the use of synthetic TROPICS data. Proxy data are designed to mimic the resolution, format, and accuracy of an anticipated project, and provide a way to evaluate the potential value of a mission prior to launch. Fig 1. shows an example of TROPICS proxy data, derived from a high-resolution numerical simulation of a hurricane lifecycle in the North Atlantic Ocean (proxy data are courtesy of Ralf Bennartz, Vanderbilt University, UW-Madison SSEC). The estimated channel frequency is 205 GHz, which sensitive to the distribution of ice suspended in the atmosphere.

Fig. 1: An example of TROPICS proxy data estimated at a channel frequency of 205 GHz. Image courtesy of Frank LaFontaine, Raytheon/NASA SPoRT.

Blue and green colors demonstrate deep convective clouds near the eye of the cyclone (located near 22 degrees N and 62 degrees W), and red and orange colors demonstrate drier air wrapping around the storm. These data can potentially help to accelerate our abilities to use real TROPICS data once calibrated and in orbit.

TROPICS will have 12 channel frequencies, most of which are used for temperature and humidity measurements. More information on the TROPICS mission and applications is available here.

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