Vic Klemas, professor of marine studies at the University of Delaware, has been appointed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the Coastal Ocean Applications and Science Team (COAST).
The national panel will advise NOAA, NASA, and the Navy on the design of a new generation of satellites that will be able to observe coastal waters more frequently and in more detail than currently possible, providing more timely, accurate data for a broad range of applications — from improving storm forecasting to predicting the path of an oil spill.
“You might think of it as outfitting our current series of weather satellites with a pair of binoculars and specialized filters to more clearly see what’s happening in our coastal waters,” Klemas says.
Just like its predecessors in the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) series, each new GOES-R satellite will hover continuously about 22,000 miles above a fixed location on the Earth’s surface. However, the new model will be equipped with specialized hyperspectral sensors for detecting small differences in ocean color from pollutants or from changing chlorophyll concentrations in tiny sea plants called phytoplankton that form the base of the ocean’s food chain.
“This new series of satellites will provide timelier and more precise data of benefit to marine scientists, coastal managers, and the public,” Klemas says. “They will enable us to observe and monitor rapidly changing processes that occur in estuaries and along the continental shelf related to coastal storms and flooding, productivity of coastal waters, phytoplankton blooms, oil spills and other pollutants, ice and its impact on shipping, and many other phenomena,” he notes.
At the first COAST panel meeting in September at Oregon State University, two dozen university scientists, engineers, and federal agency representatives provided input on coastal science requirements critical to the new satellite’s design. During the next several years, the team will meet periodically to discuss sensor specifications and review prototypes. The new satellite is scheduled to be launched by 2012.
A member of the UD faculty since 1971, Klemas co-directs the Center for Remote Sensing, which serves as a focal point for research on the ocean and coastal zone using data gathered by research vessels, aircraft, and satellites equipped with multispectral, infrared, and microwave sensors.
He has served on numerous National Research Council panels and currently is on the editorial boards of three scientific journals, including Remote Sensing of the Environment, Journal of Coastal Research, and Environmental Management.