NASA and NOAA know that multi-day weather forecasts can be crucial to tracking hurricanes and their aftermath, and they're about to significantly boost the reliability of those forecasts. They just launched JPSS-1 (Joint Polar Satellite System-1), the first of a series of NOAA satellites that should improve the accuracy of weather forecasts extending as long as a whole week. It includes five upgraded instruments (including an infrared imaging sensor and a microwave sounder) that can track weather-influencing factors with exacting detail, such as atmospheric temperature, clouds, ice cover, ocean colors and volcanic ash.
The satellite will have to go through 3 months of tests before it's operational. When it's ready, however, it should not only help predict the path of hurricanes, but visualize storm damage and track the scale of power outages. It may just save lives by giving people more time to prepare and pinpointing the worst-hit areas. It should also bolster monitoring for long-term climate patterns like El Niño. All told, JPSS-1 could help scientists better understand weather and the environment as a whole.