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NASA Satellites Start Tracking Down the Sources of Climate Change

NASA scientists are showing off some of the first results from a fresh crop of satellites and space station sensors designed to track the factors behind climate change and extreme weather on a near-real-time basis. "We're really looking forward to the contributions that these new missions will make to science and to life on Earth," Peg Luce, deputy director of the Earth science division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said Thursday during a teleconference to discuss the results. Some of the observing instruments are still being calibrated, but they're already providing data for weather forecasts and climate modeling, the scientists said. The latest Earth-monitoring missions include: The Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory, or GPM, which was launched a year ago to provide the equivalent of a global CT scan for the clouds that produce rain and snow. NASA's mission cost is $933 million. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, which went into orbit last July to track the sources of carbon dioxide being added to the atmosphere, as well as the channels by which carbon is removed from the air. Mission cost is $468 million. ISS-RapidScat, a scatterometer that measures wind speeds and direction over the ocean from a vantage point on the International Space Station. The $26 million instrument was delivered to the station in September during a SpaceX Dragon resupply flight. The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, a laser ranging device that measures the altitude of clouds and airborne particles. CATS is a $15 million technology demonstration mission that was flown up to the space station on a Dragon in January. The Soil Moisture Active Passive observatory, or SMAP, which was launched in January on a $916 million mission to measure moisture levels in Earth's topsoil. The GPM mission released its first global time-lapse precipitation maps, showing the patterns of rainfall and snowfall during northern summer as clouds swept from west to east in higher latitudes, and marched from east to west near the equator. More via NBC News.com.

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