The Union Recorder

January 21, 2014

OUR SPACE: A new rain gauge in your global back yard

Beate Czogalla
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — You’ve seen them: those sun-bleached vertical transparent tubes in the back yard that collect rain water and tell you how much precipitation you had the night before. For some it’s merely fun to know (especially when your frenemies down the road have different measurements, and it always seems to be sunnier on their side of the fence), and for the hobby gardeners out there it’s downright vital. Do your squash plants need watering today? Or did your own personal black cloud hanging over your head provide a silver lining in the form of rain?

Measuring precipitation has long been an arduous and painstaking process, and data could only be acquired by visiting all those tubes and gathering data. If rain data gathering is your job you are limited by the data you were able to read and the places you could put up your little tubes (and you fervently hope that no wild critter out there thinks of your collection tubes as an outdoorsy version of champagne flutes).

But the guesswork and the gaps between measurements will soon be a thing of the past, because a new satellite will take care of all of those pesky measurements from high above: GPM, or the Global Precipitation Measurement mission is designed to use radar to measure all global precipitation every few days with unprecedented accuracy and far more regularly than ever before possible.

Yeah, so GPM isn’t a very catchy name, and unless something goes horribly wrong up there, GPM isn’t going to be front page news. So it rained an inch on Buckingham Palace. Big whoop, right?

While the Buckingham Palace gardeners may beg to differ, they might be equally disinterested in the fact that the Milledgeville Country Club got trace amounts of snow on the same day. And yet, we have the data available.

Not only will the accurate measurements be of local interest – scientists tracking global weather phenomena are salivating at the mere thought of having such detailed information at their fingertips soon.

GPM is a follow up expansion project to TRMM (Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission) which concentrated on moderate to heavy rainfall in the tropics. GPM has a far greater range – from the Arctic Circle up North all the way South to the Antarctic Circle. Chances are your house is somewhere between those two points. And let me take this opportunity to do a very special shout-out to all those Union-Recorder followers beyond those lines!

GPM will launch atop a Japanese H-IIA rocket from a Japanese launch site. Like so many global monitoring missions GPM is an international venture and a collaboration between various nations who will then all benefit from the data. A launch date has yet to be announced, but the spacecraft has just arrived in Japan and is undergoing final testing to make sure nothing was damaged in transit.

But don’t toss your little rain gauge just yet. After all, where else would your little feathered friends go for happy hour?

Learn more about the field of Precipitation Measurements at http://pmm.nasa.gov/GPM

 

Beate Czogalla is the Professor of Theater Design in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Georgia College & State University. She has had a lifelong interest in space exploration and has been a Solar System Ambassador for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/ NASA for many years. She can be reached at   our_space2@yahoo.com