Predicting the amount, size and intensity of rainfall is Dalia Kirschbaum's job. She's an earth scientist at Goddard who works down the hall. Kirschbaum is a landslide specialist and she's trying to understand what happened in Haiti, where 20 inches of rain led to flooding and landslides have killed more than 800 people, according to reports Friday afternoon.
Kirschbaum collects data from two sensors on the satellite. One is a super-sensitive radar that works like an CAT scan to view the storm's structure. The second, a microwave imager, that is like an x-ray.
"It can tell you the difference between light rain, heavy rain and snow," Kirschbaum says. "We're able to tell how rainfall is accumulating in this storm."
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Forecasting agencies and others also use GPM data to make predictive computer models of hurricane tracks, while Kirschbaum is helping predict rainfall damage to the East Coast of the United States.
Like anyone who loves technology, Kirschbaum and Braun are excited about the next device they can get their hands on (and answer their scientific questions). On Nov. 4, NASA along with its partner agency NOAA, will launch the GOES-R satellite into a stationary orbit above the U.S.
"We can take better pictures of hurricanes with GOES-R," Kirschbaum said. "And because we have a continuous view, we can see how these storms are moving much better."
If that's not enough, there's also a lightning sensor that will show the atmospheric sparks generated by the next big storm that lumbers out of the tropical Atlantic toward the U.S. mainland.