Accurate weather forecasts save lives. NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument, launched on this date 15 years ago on NASA’s Aqua satellite, significantly increased weather forecasting accuracy within a couple of years by providing extraordinary three-dimensional maps of clouds, air temperature and water vapor throughout the atmosphere's weather-making layer. Fifteen years later, AIRS continues to be a valuable asset for forecasters worldwide, sending 7 billion observations streaming into forecasting centers every day.
The top 2 inches of topsoil on all of Earth’s landmasses contains an infinitesimal fraction of the planet’s water — less than one-thousandth of a percent. Yet because of its position at the interface between the land and the atmosphere, that tiny amount plays a crucial role in everything from agriculture to weather and climate, and even the spread of disease.
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas you might look to the bookies to check the odds. Despite reports that this will be the coldest winter since 1963, with less than a week to go the odds of a flurry in London on the big day were hovering around 7/2, one of the lowest chances of snow for several years.