Happy Birthday to NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, she just turned 15. Originally, TRMM was only a three year mission after her November 27, 1997 launch. After 15 years, however, it has given scientists a better understanding of precipitation patterns around the globe.
TRMM orbits the equator at an angle and covers 35 degrees north and south. The equator receives the most rain on the planet and this is why NASA chose to orbit this location.
After studying data for the last decade and a half, scientists have a greater grasp on how El Niño affects global patterns and how rain varies seasonally and annually. It has even studied how humans affect local rain precipitation from urban heat islands to deforestation.
TRMM carries instruments that measures intensity of rainfall, characteristics of the water vapor and clouds and lightning associated with rain events.
In the 3D image above, Precipitation Radar dissected clouds to see raindrops and precipitation-sized ice like hail. This gives scientist the chance to see what powers these massive storms such as hurricanes and thunderstorms.
A new mission, named the Global Precipitation Measurement, is set to launch in February 2014. GPM will cover the tropics but will also stretch across the Arctic and Antarctic circles.
Even though TRMM will eventually run out of fuel like all of the storms she has covered, this mission has improved our understanding of the weather across the Globe. Thank you and happy birthday TRMM!