In 1997 NASA launched the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), which was a mission equipped to help measure rainfall on Earth in places ground radar simply couldn’t.

For the past 17 years, well beyond its expected lifespan, TRMM has been delivering data to Earth-bound meteorologists and scientists to help us learn more about the hydrologic cycle on our planet.

On February 28th, a brand-new mission launched from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan (pictured) called Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM).

GPM is designed to help out TRMM and get more accurate measurements of rainfall and, for the first time ever, begin recording data about snowfall both on land, in the atmosphere, and over the oceans.

From a recent online chat:

GPM is the first precipitation mission specifically designed to measure falling snow. A lot is still unknown about snow, especially about how it behaves when it is still in the atmosphere. It‘s also difficult to measure from space because the ice particles are very small and look different to the satellite‘s instruments than liquid raindrops. As a result, while scientists can say something about snow with ground radars, where those radars can’t see, such as over the ocean or in mountainous regions, they really don‘t know how much or where the snow is falling. With GPM‘s data, scientists will be able to start answering some of those questions. And in turn, that will improve snow forecasts and our knowledge of water resources.

The combined effort of TRMM and GPM are captured and documented by @NASA_Rain on Twitter.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.