How NASA SPoRT imaging helps forecasters keep you safe

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The NASA Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center (SPoRT) project under Marshall Space Flight Center is a region-wide resource for weather forecasters. It provides key information during a storm like Hurricane Michael.

Research scientists on NASA's SPoRT project create images including soil moisture products, sea surface temperature, and specialized satellite composites. They send them to agencies like the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service, which can use the information to keep you safe.

"The forecasters need to put out watches and warnings, so they can alert the public to dangerous situations," said Emily Berndt, a research scientist with SPoRT. "They synthesize a lot of the satellite information to put messaging out to the public."

SPoRT utilizes resources, like satellites and imaging, that is unique and can only be seen through NASA technology. Leaders said a lot of its work precedes the storm, to make sure those data feeds are helpful and providing critical information to the weather community.

"It helps us see through the clouds to assess the storm structure, the sea surface temperatures that the storm is moving toward to determine whether or not the storm could possibly strengthen or weaken, or flooding potential," Berndt said. "It really is neat to see how forecasters use the data."

This information can be especially helpful with storms, like Michael, that have potential to be damaging.

"They provide unique data sets that help actually peer into the eye of the hurricane before you can actually visibly see it with just satellite imagery alone," said Kris White, NWS Applications Integration Meteorologist. "That is very important."

White works as a liaison between NASA SPoRT and the NWS. He said it's a useful partnership. SPoRT's information can help forecasters paint a picture of what's to come.

"That's what entities like the NWS needs, is stuff short-term. We make predictions on severe weather in relatively short time, so they provide data sets to help make that kind of thing possible," explained White.

The hope is that all the emerging science being utilized here can lead to a more informed, and safer, tomorrow.

"We learn more about how to use the data and how to apply it, and sometimes we uncover things about the storm that we didn't know and we can make a new scientific discovery," Berndt stated.

"That's the bottom line," White said. "The protection of life and property."