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Since the 1960s, the U.S. Air Force has operated the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) series of operational polar-orbiting meteorological satellite systems. These satellites obtain environmental data that are processed to provide graphical weather images and specialized weather products.
These satellite data are also the predominant input to numerical weather prediction models, which are a primary tool for forecasting weather days in advance — including forecasting the path and intensity of hurricanes. The weather products and models are used to predict the potential impact of severe weather so that communities and emergency managers can help prevent and mitigate its effects.
Polar satellites also provide data used to monitor environmental phenomena, such as ozone depletion and drought conditions, as well as data sets that are used by researchers for a variety of studies such as climate monitoring.