Roundabout Way of Profiling Earth's Atmosphere

New method of measuring temperature, pressure, and humidity using GPS signals should improve weather forecasting

4 min read

If all went according to plan, on 31 March six microsatellites were carried into space stacked aboard a single U.S. Air Force Minotaur rocket. Each satellite is equipped with a radio receiver designed at the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, which will pick up signals from the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS). Together, the six satellites make up a system called COSMIC, for Constellation Observing Systems for Meteorology, Ionosphere & Climate, whose mission is to take measurements of temperature and humidity in the atmosphere by means of a technique called radio occultation.

Conceived by Richard Anthes, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colo., and several colleagues in Taiwan and the United States, the project is unusual and unprecedented in that the six satellites were assembled in Taiwan and largely paid for by the government of Taiwan. The system's method of sounding the atmosphere's temperature, pressure, and moisture and using the data for weather prediction is also without precedent. "It is the first mission to demonstrate the use of GPS radio occultation soundings for weather prediction in near real time," says Anthes.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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