COPY-UW helped launch first climate satellite 50 years ago - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

COPY-UW helped launch first climate satellite 50 years ago

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The modern climate change debate can draw ardent environmentalists and vociferous skeptics alike. Fifty years ago today, though, man finally got a better look at how the Earth retains and emits heat.

On October 13, 1959, University of Wisconsin-Madison professors Verner Suomi and Robert Parent watched from a bunker at Cape Canaveral as a Juno II rocket carrying the Explorer 7 satellite was launched into orbit.

The satellite contained a radiometer. It was created to measure from space the amount of heat that reaches and leaves the planet. Beforehand, meteorologists could only observe the atmosphere from the ground.

"Data about clouds in the middle and upper atmosphere and global measurements of heat absorption and emission were sketchy and localized at best, and scientists were quickly realizing that satellites offered the best opportunity to fill their knowledge gaps," according to a news release on Tuesday from University Communications.

The university is planning an event about the accomplishment on November 2 at Monona Terrace. Former researchers who worked with Suomi and Parent will be there.

Verner Suomi was hired as one of UW-Madison's first professors in its Department of Meteorology. Robert Parent was a professor in electrical engineering.

The satellite transmitted a continuous stream of data back to Earth until February of 1961, when it went silent.

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