The GPS/MET (Global Positioning System/Meteorology, Ware et al. 1996) project demonstrated atmospheric limb sounding from low-earth-orbit (LEO) with high vertical resoulution, high accuracy, and global coverage in all weather. Based on the success and scientific results of GPS/MET, Taiwan's National Space Program Office (NSPO), the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Arizona, Florida State University and other partners in the university community are developing COSMIC (Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate), a follow-on project for weather and climate research, climate monitoring, space weather, and geodetic science. COSMIC plans to launch eight LEO satellites in 2004. Each COSMIC satellite will retrieve about 500 daily profiles of key ionospheric and atmospheric properties from the tracked GPS radio-signals as they are occulted behind the Earth limb. The constellation will provide frequent global snapshots of the atmosphere and ionosphere with about 4000 daily soundings.
This paper discusses some of the applications of COSMIC data for meteorology, including polar meteorology, numerical weather prediction (NWP), and climate. Applications to ionospheric research including space weather and geodesy are described elsewhere in this issue of TAO.
In meteorology COSMIC will provide high vertical resolution temperature, pressure and water vapor information for a variety of atmospheric process studies and improve the forecast accuracy of numerical weather prediction models. The COSMIC data set will allow investigation of the global water vapor distribution and map the atmospheric flow of water vapor that is so crucial for understanding and predicting weather and climate. The data set will provide accurate geopotential heights, enable the detection of gravity waves from the upper troposphere to the stratosphere, reveal the height and shape of the tropopause globally with unprecedented accuracy, support the investigation of fronts and other baroclinic structures, and improve our understanding of tropopause-stratosphere exchange processes.
COSMIC data will complement other observing systems and improve global weather analyses, particularly over the oceans and polar regions, and NWP forecasts made from these analyses. Through assimilation in numerical models, COSMIC data will improve the resolution and accuracy of the global temperature, pressure and water vapor fields, and through the modePs dynamical and physical adjustment mechanisms, the wind fields as well. These improved analyses and forecasts will provide significant benefits to aviation and other industries.
For climate research and monitoring COSMIC will provide an accurate global thermometer that will monitor Earth's atmosphere in all weather with unprecedented long-term stability, resolution, coverage, and accuracy. COSMIC will provide a data set for the detection of climate variability and change, the separation of natural and anthropogenic causes, the calibration of other satellite observing systems and the verification and improvement of climate models. COSMIC will contribute to studies of El Nifio events especially in remote oceanic regions, and it will enable scientists to monitor the response of the global atmosphere to regional events such as volcanic eruptions, the Kuwait oil fires, or the recent Indonesian and Mexican forest fires. Upper-tropospheric refractivity data from COSMIC may shed new light on the controversy over the role that tropical convection plays in climate feedback. Global water vapor fields derived with the use of COSMIC data will provide new insights into the global hydrologic cycle.