NOAA 2003-031
Contact: John Leslie
NOAA News Releases 2003
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Move Ensures Continuity of Weather Information Across Western Pacific

After April 19, any powerful typhoon that threatens nations along the western edge of the Pacific, will be monitored closely by Japanese meteorologists thanks to an agreement that provides for the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to operate GOES-9 – a weather satellite that meets Japanese and U.S. weather forecast and storm monitoring requirements.

The movement of GOES-9 is an important step in developing mutual backup meteorological arrangements between the United States and Japan, NOAA’s top official said today.

Backup Arrangement Critical

“Typhoon Chata’an showed just how crucial satellite data are when tracking an active, deadly storm in the Pacific,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph. D, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, and NOAA administrator. “GOES-9 will help forecasters protect residents of Japan and other nations in the Pacific by providing the latest information on the storm’s movement.”

Last year, powerful Typhoon Chata’an hammered Micronesia, the Philippines, Guam, the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Japan. In the end, 2002 produced a total of 31 typhoons in the western Pacific, with 11 menacing Micronesia alone.

“GOES-9 is ready for action just in time for the 2003 typhoon season,” said Gregory W. Withee, assistant administrator of NOAA’s National Environmental, Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NOAA Satellite and Information). The agency operates NOAA’s two GOES satellites, which are key to forecasting short-range weather events, including tornadoes, floods and tropical cyclones.

Moving Toward Global Coverage

Under the agreement, Japan covered the cost of upgrading NOAA’s Command and Data Acquisition Station in Fairbanks, Alaska, which now enables the agency to control GOES over the western Pacific. Japan will also pay to move and operate GOES-9. The agreement also lays the framework to negotiate a long-term mutual back-up arrangement, which would allow the United States to ask Japan for help if one of the U.S. GOES satellites has problems.

GOES-9 will back up Japan’s Geostationary Meteorological Satellite-5 (GMS-5), which is operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency. GMS-5, launched in 1995, is past its useful life and has encountered recent imaging troubles and fuel shortages. GOES-9, also launched in 1995, was placed in storage mode after it no longer met NOAA’s full operational requirements. The satellite still has sounding and imaging capabilities and can serve as a limited replacement for the GMS-5.

In 1999, Japan planned to replace the ailing satellite with its Multifunctional Transportation Satellite (MTSAT-1), but experienced a launch failure. The replacement satellite, MTSAT-1R, is currently scheduled for launch this summer.

“When severe weather threatens, an uninterrupted flow of satellite data becomes a matter of life or death,” Withee said. “This agreement makes that notion possible for storms in the Pacific.”

NOAA Satellite and Information is the nation’s primary source of space-based meteorological and climate data. It operates the nation’s environmental satellites, which are used for weather and ocean observation and forecasting, climate monitoring, sea-surface temperature, fire detection, and ozone monitoring.

NOAA Satellite and Information Services also operates three data centers, which house global databases in climatology, oceanography, solid Earth geophysics, marine geology and geophysics, solar-terrestrial physics and paleoclimatology.

NOAA, which is part of the Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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