NASA plans another busy year for earth science fieldwork

NASA_researchThree new NASA field research campaigns get underway around the world this year and nine continue fieldwork to give scientists a deeper understanding of how our home planet works.

NASA scientists are crisscrossing the globe in 2017 – from a Hawaiian volcano to Colorado mountain tops and west Pacific islands – to investigate critical scientific questions about how our planet is changing and what impacts humans are having on it.

Field experiments are an important part of NASA’s Earth science research. Scientists worldwide use the agency’s field data, together with satellite observations and computer models, to tackle environmental challenges and advance our knowledge of how the Earth works as a complex, integrated system.

“At NASA we are always pushing the boundaries of what can be done from space to advance science and improve lives around the world,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These field campaigns help us build better tools to address such issues as managing scarce water resources and alerting the public to natural disasters.”

Three new field campaigns kick off this month. Scientists preparing for a future Hyperspectral Infrared Imager (HyspIRI) mission will take to the skies above Hawaii to collect airborne data on coral reef health and volcanic emissions and eruptions. This airborne experiment supports a potential HyspIRI satellite mission to study the world’s ecosystems and provide information on natural disasters.

Scientists working on a future satellite – the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission – sets sail in January from Hawaii. The month-long sea campaign across the Pacific on the research vessel Falkor will monitor the diversity of oceanic phytoplankton, microscopic plant-like organisms, and their impact on the marine carbon cycle. Novel measurements will be compared to existing satellite observations and used in preparation for the PACE mission.

In February, the SnowEx airborne campaign begins flights over the snow-covered forests of Colorado for the first of a multiyear effort to determine how much water is stored in Earth’s terrestrial snow-covered regions.