(KXAN) — As technology improves, our ability to observe the world improves with each new satellite that blasts off to orbit.

Meteorologist Nick Bannin spoke with Larry Flynn, a research scientist with NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) about NOAA’s brand new ‘NOAA-21 Satellite’ that’s continuing to build on earth observation of satellites prior, but with even more detail.

Total ozone measured by the OMPS NM on February 17, 2023. Credit: NASA/NOAA/JPSS
Total ozone measured by the OMPS NM on February 17, 2023. Credit: NASA/NOAA/JPSSTotal ozone measured by the OMPS NM on February 17, 2023. Credit: NASA/NOAA/JPSS

Below is a transcript of Bannin and Flynn’s conversation.

Meteorologist Nick Bannin: NOAA’s 21 Satellite recently released its first images of global ozone concentration recently, what were you able to determine from those new images?

Larry Flynn, Research Scientist, NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System: So the images are from our newest ozone and mapping and profiler suite, which we call ‘OMPS’. It has three instruments a total ozone mapper, a Nadir ozone profiler and a limb profiler. The ozone estimates that were shown in the map, one thing they can be used for is to make estimates of the ultraviolet index. So you’ve probably heard of the UV index that tells you about the sun exposure. After launch, the instruments have to go through a checkout phase, because going from the Earth to the satellite orbit, there can be changes in them. So there’ll be updating the calibration, the instruments are performing well and we expect to be fully validated in a few months. The current instrument is designed with a minimum five year lifetime, there was one that was launched in 2012. And it’s still working well. So these are good instruments that we’re putting up there.

Bannin: Obviously, this is not NASA’s first and NOAA’s first look at ozone on the earth, but it is an improved look, right, over previous satellites?

Flynn: So the new Nadir total ozone members, the one that has the most changes. It’s got an increased data rate, which will give us better horizontal resolution. So when we look at the Earth, the fields of view that we had with the first stomps instrument, the smallest ones are about 30 miles by 30 miles and the new one, the smallest fields of view will be about six miles by six miles. So that level of further refinement to what we can see on the Earth means that we’ll be able to better identify various things. In addition to ozone, these instruments can also measure sulfur dioxide S02, and aerosols, including smoke and dust. And what we find is that with improved resolution, the horizontal resolution we have, we’re going to be better able to identify specific sources of pollutants.

Bannin: Is it true that this satellite can also pick up predictors for increased ozone as well before ozone increases?

Flynn: So it makes estimates both of the ozone and of the vertical distribution, and it looks at how those vary around the globe. We know how they should be distributed. But there’s also the capability to measure nitrogen dioxide and NO2, and that’s a precursor to tropospheric ozone formation. So the ozone down here where we don’t want it, where we have to breathe it. So that’s one thing it can do. Ozone moves around the world just like other weather phenomenon do. So the amounts and how they move around, and how they’re affected by what we put into the atmosphere, all are tracked with this new system.

Bannin: Now why is it so important to get this better resolution and to be able to figure out where ozone is developing and how it’s moving and where it is around the globe?

Flynn: So one of one of the key applications is a long term one, actually, not just the day to day. We’ve been measuring ozone since 1970 with satellite instruments. There was an early one that NASA flew on the Nimbus 4, called the backscatter ultraviolet and this instrument that we’re flying now is is a much more advanced one. But we trace that record all the way back there. And the key thing that we want to do is to look and see what’s going on with the ozone layer as it recovers as all the nations in the world follow the the agreements they’ve made to stop producing ozone depleting substances.

You’ve probably heard about chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, everyone agreed to stop making those, the levels in the atmosphere going down, the amount of ozone destruction from them is going down. And that’s part of what we track with these measurements over the longer term. In addition, we also have that there can be interactions between what goes on with the ozone layer and with climate change and the opposite limb profiler, in particular, among the instruments that we set up, has very good vertical resolution that can help to key in and identify those changes, and better quantify them.

Bannin: Larry, there’s not just an ozone measuring instrument on this new satellite, but some weather measuring instruments too. Can you talk about those?

Flynn: Yeah, its main mission is actually to support the weather forecasts and there’s other instruments that measure in the visible and infrared in in the microwave. and those give good information on the atmosphere, temperature on clouds and on moisture that the humidity in the atmosphere, as well as on aerosols as well, additional ones that have more information on aerosols.