NASA is sending scientists around the world this year - from the edge of the Greenland ice sheet to the coral reefs of the South Pacific - to study how our planet is changing and what impact humans are having on it. While Earth science field experiments are nothing new for NASA, the next six months will be a particularly active period with eight major new campaigns taking researchers around the world on a wide range of science investigations.
“Combining the long-term global view from space with detailed measurements from field experiments is a powerful way of deciphering what’s happening in our world,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. “Scientists worldwide use NASA Earth science field data together with satellite data and computer models to tackle many of today’s environmental challenges and advance our knowledge of how the Earth works as a complex, integrated system,” Freilich said. (Also read. NASA Cassini Mission: Tallest mountain point is located on Saturn’s moon Titan )
The first of the new projects, currently in the field, is an examination of the extent to which the oceans around Greenland are melting the edges of the ice sheet from below. The Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) team is now conducting its first airborne survey of the ice edge around the entire coast of Greenland.
Air quality is the focus of the Korea US-Air Quality (KORUS-AQ) campaign in South Korea, which begins in May. This joint study between NASA and the Republic of Korea will advance our ability to monitor air pollution from space, with coordinated observations from aircraft, ground sites, ships and satellites. Also in May, the North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) takes to the sea and air for the second year to study how the world’s largest plankton bloom gives rise to small organic particles that influence clouds and climate. (Also read. NASA mission spots tallest mountain on Saturn's moon Titan )
Throughout much of this year, teams of scientists working on the Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) will be in the tundra and forests of Alaska and northwestern Canada studying the role of climate in wildfires, thawing permafrost, wildlife migration habits and insect outbreaks. In June, the COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) project team will begin testing airborne and in-water instruments in Hawaii to assess the condition of threatened coral-based ecosystems.
Three airborne research campaigns will take to the skies this summer, focusing on critical climate-related components of the atmosphere. The Observations of Clouds above Aerosols and their Interactions (ORACLES) study will use airborne instruments to probe the impact on climate and rainfall of the interaction between clouds over the southeastern Atlantic Ocean and smoke from massive vegetation burning in southern Africa. (Also read. NASA's Kepler captures shockwave of an exploding star for the first time )
A better understanding of how the smoke particles alter stratocumulus clouds that play a key role in regional and global surface temperatures and precipitation will help improve current climate models.