The Alaska Region achieves a unique resonance of natural hazards spanning the surface to the top of the troposphere and civilian/multi-agency activities impacted directly by them. The remote and data sparse expanses of this region elevate the value to forecasters of satellite-based remote sensing, and take best advantage of polar-orbiting assets in a way that the mid- to low-latitude users cannot.
Over the past decade we have entered a new era of capabilities at the high latitudes thanks to advances on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) new-generation satellite programs. The introduction of the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) and Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1, or NOAA-20) satellites, and their Visible/Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day/Night Band (DNB) sensors, have begun to ‘shed light’ on the extended nights of the cool seasons in novel and useful ways. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) promises to far surpass the capabilities of previous GOES imager for Alaska coverage once GOES-17 migrates to the GOES-W position (137 W) this Fall. Together, these new polar -and geo-satellites pack a formidable one-two punch in terms of providing coverage and capability for this key domain of increasing strategic importance, commercial activity, and attendant infrastructure/population growth.
The Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), established at Colorado State University in 1980, works closely with NOAA to develop algorithms and applications based on its cadre of environmental satellites. Here, we present some of these applications, including the science behind them, with an eye toward their relevance to the Alaska Region. Examples include VIIRS/DNB nighttime applications, estimates of cloud geometric thickness for aviation and cold air aloft, atmospheric moisture retrievals, and products that anticipate GOES-17 ABI utility over all parts of Alaska and surroundings. Some of these products are currently being fielded to Alaskan users via coordination with the Geographic Information Network of Alaska (GINA) at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.