News

  • NASA’s S-MODE Takes to the Air and Sea to Study Ocean Eddies

    After being delayed over a year due to the pandemic, a NASA field campaign to study the role of small-scale whirlpools and ocean currents in climate change is taking flight and taking to the seas in May 2021.

    Using scientific instruments aboard a self-propelled ocean glider and several airplanes, this first deployment of the Sub-Mesoscale Ocean Dynamics Experiment (S-MODE) mission will deploy its suite of water- and air-borne instruments to ensure that they work together to show what’s happening just below the ocean’s surface. The full-fledged field campaign will begin in October 2021, with the aircraft based out of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

    “This campaign in May is largely to compare different ways of measuring ocean surface currents so that we can have confidence in those measurements when we get to the pilot in October,” said Tom Farrar, associate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and principal investigator for S-MODE.

    The S-MODE team hopes to learn more about small-scale movements of ocean water such as eddies. These whirlpools span about 6.2 miles or ten kilometers, slowly moving ocean water in a swirling pattern. Scientists think that these eddies play an important role in moving heat from the surface to the ocean layers below, and vice versa. In addition, the eddies may play a role in the exchange of heat, gases and nutrients between the ocean and Earth’s atmosphere. Understanding these small-scale eddies will help scientists better understand how Earth’s oceans slow down global climate change.

  • S-MODE Conducts Field Campaign in Southern California

    After a 13-month delay to the start of science operations due to COVID-19, the Submesoscale Ocean Dynamics and Vertical Transport Experiment (S-MODE) investigation has officially started collecting data with a short field campaign that began on May 3. This campaign features flights based at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) main campus in Edwards, CA on the AFRC B200, a deployment of instrumented ocean Wave Gliders from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) that look at currents at depth and other environmental conditions, and a Twin Otter International (TOI) aircraft. The B200 is equipped with the JPL Doppler Scatterometry instrument (DopplerScatt) that measures ocean surface velocity and wind, and UCLA’s Multiscale Observing System of the Ocean Surface (MOSES) that measures sea surface temperature (SST). The TOI Twin Otter carries the SIO Modular Aerial Sensing System (MASS), which measures sea surface topography, SST, ocean color, and ocean surface waves.
     
    The week of May 3 marked a number of long-awaited firsts for S-MODE. On Monday, the first flight on the B200 with the combined payload of the JPL DopplerScatt and UCLA MOSES instruments flew lines between Catalina and San Clemente islands — an area of strong ocean currents. The research activities on Friday, centered at  Office of Naval Research experiment site about 350 km offshore of Los Angeles, allowed the science team to conduct joint operations for the first time among the four instruments listed above. This combination of instruments represents some of the key measurements that will be made during future S-MODE campaigns. Demonstrating successful joint operations among these platforms is a key milestone for the S-MODE investigation, and the science team is very pleased with the resulting data so far.
     
    The current experiment will continue until May 18 in preparation for the S-MODE October Pilot campaign, whose flight operations will be based at NASA Ames Research Center.

    S-MODE is supported by the Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) Program Office at NASA Langley Research Center through the Earth Venture Suborbital-3 program and managed by the Earth Science Project Office (ESPO) at NASA Ames Research Center.

    Picture:  Pilots Jim Less (NASA AFRC) and Mike Stewart (NASA ARC) and instrument investigators Jeroen Molemaker (UCLA) and Federica Polverari (JPL) before takeoff of RF4 on May 7, 2021. (Photo J. Piotrowski, AFRC)

  • DCOTSS Teams Begin Integration

    Teams supporting the Earth Venture Suborbital-3 project, Dynamics and Chemistry of the Summer Stratosphere (DCOTSS), began integration of instruments onto the ER-2 at AFRC this week in preparation for the July deployment to Salina, Kansas. Earth Science Project Office personnel and three instrument teams (PALMS (Particle Analysis by Laser Mass Spectrometry), POPS (Printed Optical Particle Spectrometer), and MMS (Meteorological Measurement System)) arrived in Palmdale and began work May 3rd. Integration will be completed in June and the first test flight is scheduled for June 9. Caitlin Murphy (ESPO) and Paul Bui (MMS) are pictured here.

  • Researchers with NASA’s Delta-X mission conduct preliminary field work in coastal Louisiana’s delta region. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    After COVID-19 Delay, Delta-X Field Campaign Begins in Louisiana

    Teams are headed out by land, water, and air to collect data that will be used to forecast land gain and loss in the Mississippi River Delta as a result of sea level rise.

  • Researcher Luke Ziemba checks an instrument on the Falcon prior to a flight. Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman

    ACTIVATE Begins Year Two of Marine Cloud Study

    A NASA airborne study has returned to the field for a second year of science flights to advance the accuracy of short- and long-term climate models.

     

    The Aerosol Cloud meTeorology Interactions oVer the western ATlantic Experiment (ACTIVATE) began the third of six planned flight campaigns — two campaigns each year beginning in 2020 and ending in 2022 — in late January at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

  • DC-8 lifts off from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., at sunset. Credits: NASA / Carla Thomas

    NASA’s DC-8 Returns to Flight

    NASA’s DC-8 aircraft returned to the skies after more than a year of maintenance, which included an overhaul to all four engines. NASA operates the highly-modified Douglas DC-8 as a flying science laboratory in support of the agency’s Airborne Science program. On Monday, Jan. 18, the aircraft departed for San Antonio, Texas, where it will remain for planned periodic depot maintenance over several months.

     

     

  • ASP Research Network as tracked by the Mission Tools Suite

    This figure depicts nearly eight years of science flights across the globe by the NASA Airborne Science Program (ASP) aircraft serving the needs of the Earth Science community. Flight tracking is achieved using the Mission Tools Suite (MTS). 

  • A team of NASA researchers traveled to Australia to work with partners supporting a mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth.

    Capturing an Asteroid Sample Return from Down Under

    A team of NASA researchers traveled to Australia to work with partners supporting a mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth. The Scientifically Calibrated In-Flight Imagery (SCIFLI) Hayabusa 2 Airborne Reentry Observation Campaign (SHARC) team successfully imaged the reentry of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission Hayabusa 2.

  • The crew after their successful season. In the photo from left to right: Josh Willis, OMG lead scientist; Mike Wood, OMG scientist; Linden Hoover, Kenn Borek co-pilot; Jim Haffey, Kenn Borek pilot; and Ian Fenty, OMG scientist. Not pictured are Gerald Cirtwell, Kenn Borek flight engineer, and Ian McCubbin, OMG project manager. Credit: Josh Willis/JPL

    Pandemic Delays, But Doesn’t Slow, Ice Melt Research in Greenland

    Despite racing against impending harsh weather conditions, a red and white World War II aircraft flew slowly and steadily over the icy waters surrounding Greenland in August and September. Three weeks delayed by pandemic restrictions, scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory inside this retrofitted DC-3 plane started dropping hundreds of probes as part of an annual expedition known as the Oceans Melting Greenland(OMG) Project.

  • Masks are part of the safety protocol for ACTIVATE scientists. Here, Yonghoon Choi prepares for a science flight on the HU-25 Falcon. Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman

    ACTIVATE Makes a Careful Return to Flight

    NASA's Aerosol Cloud Meteorology Interactions Over the Western Atlantic Experiment (ACTIVATE) eased into its second set of 2020 science flights out of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Barring any threats to the health or safety of the researchers or crew, flights will continue through the end of September

  • NASA's C-20A research aircraft takes off with the UAVSAR instrument attached below during an earlier flight from Edwards Air Force Base near Palmdale, California. Credits: NASA

    NASA Takes Flight to Study California's Wildfire Burn Areas

    While the agency's satellites image the wildfires from space, scientists are flying over burn areas, using smoke-penetrating technology to better understand the damage.

  • Captured by the ASTER instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite, this false-color map shows the burn area of the River and Carmel fires in Monterey County, California. Vegetation (including crops) is shown in red; the burn area (dark blue/gray) is in the center of the image. Credits: NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems

    From Space and in the Air, NASA Tracks California's Wildfires

    Earth-observing instruments on satellites and aircraft are mapping the current fires, providing data products to agencies on the ground that are responding to the emergency.

  • The Swift HALE uncrewed aircraft takes off from Spaceport America in New Mexico on July 7, 2020, for its first flight test. Credits: Swift Engineering

    NASA Small Business Partnership Prepares Drone for 30-Day Science Flights

    With the help of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, Swift Engineering of San Clemente, California, completed a two-hour flight test of their Swift High-Altitude Long-Endurance (HALE) UAS. The applications of the technology – for science, agriculture, and disaster response – could have a real impact on our everyday lives.

  • SARP intern takes an air sample

    NASA Airborne Science Interns Gathering Data at Home

    Every summer since 2009, the NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) has brought about 30 undergraduate STEM students from across the United States to California for an internship experience with NASA Earth Science research that includes flights on a research aircraft. This year with COVID-19 travel and social distancing restrictions in place, SARP might be grounded but the internship continues with new at-home data collection as well as the analysis of previously collected aircraft, ground and satellite data.

  • Mississippi River Delta, coastal Louisiana. NASA's Delta-X mission seeks to learn how sea-level rise affects the area. Credits: Jaimie Tuchman / Adobe Stock

    NASA Prepares for New Science Flights Above Coastal Louisiana

    Delta-X, a new NASA airborne investigation, is preparing to embark on its first field campaign in the Mississippi River Delta in coastal Louisiana. Beginning in April, the Delta-X science team, led by Principal Investigator Marc Simard of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will be collecting data by air and by boat to better understand why some parts of the delta are disappearing due to sea-level rise while other parts are not.

  • The image shows a thermokarst lake in Alaska. Thermokarst lakes form in the Arctic when permafrost thaws. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    NASA Flights Detect Millions of Arctic Methane Hotspots

    The Arctic is one of the fastest warming places on the planet. As temperatures rise, the perpetually frozen layer of soil, called permafrost, begins to thaw, releasing methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These methane emissions can accelerate future warming—but to understand to what extent, we need to know how much methane may be emitted, when and what environmental factors may influence its release.

  • The HU-25 Falcon, pictured here, will fly under and through the clouds, where a suite of instruments will take samples directly from the surrounding air to measure everything from aerosol properties to droplet composition to gas. Instrument probes are visible here protruding from the top of the aircraft. Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman

    Probing the Hazy Mysteries of Marine Clouds

    A new NASA airborne science mission will take researchers on coordinated flights above, through and below the clouds over the western North Atlantic Ocean. The Aerosol Cloud Meteorology Interactions Over the Western Atlantic Experiment (ACTIVATE) is scheduled to begin the first of six flight campaigns this week at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

  • NASA’s P-3 and ER-2 research planes are studying East Coast snowstorms Jan 17-Mar 1, 2020. Credit: NASA Credits: NASA

    NASA Snow-Chasers Set to Fly Into East Coast Winter Storms

    This month NASA is sending a team of scientists, a host of ground instruments, and two research aircraft to study the inner workings of snowstorms. The Investigation of Microphysics Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms, or IMPACTS, has its first deployment in a multi-year field campaign from Jan. 17 through March 1. It will be the first comprehensive study of East Coast snowstorms in 30 years.

  • In 2020 NASA will deploy five new airborne campaigns across the United States to investigate fundamental Earth processes that affect human lives and the environment, from snowstorms along the East Coast to the sinking coastline of the Mississippi River delta. Credit: NASA Credits: NASA

    Media Invited to Preview of New NASA Field Campaigns

    NASA is inviting members of the media to a behind-the-scenes tour and briefing on five new research campaigns that will take to the field in 2020 to explore questions critical to understanding our home planet. The event is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 7, from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PST at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Building 703, in Palmdale, California.

  • A photo from the window of NASA's DC-8 shows the rift across the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf running off toward the horizon. The plane flew across the crevasse on Oct. 26, 2011 as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge, and also flew directly over the rift for about 18 miles, taking detailed measurements of its depth, width and shape. The ice shelf hadn't calved a major iceberg since 2001, and IceBridge took advantage of the opportunity afforded by spotting the crack to fly over it and measure its characteris

    NASA’s Operation IceBridge Completes Eleven Years of Polar Surveys

    For eleven years from 2009 through 2019, the planes of NASA’s Operation IceBridge flew above the Arctic, Antarctic and Alaska, gathering data on the height, depth, thickness, flow and change of sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets.

  • NASA to Study East Coast Snowstorms from VA. Skies

    NASA has announced it will use Wallops Island Flight Facility, just south of Chincoteague Island, as a jumping-off point to study Atlantic snowstorms starting in January.

    It’s the first major field campaign to study East Coast snowstorms in 30 years.

    The Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms (IMPACTS) study will send a high-altitude aircraft (flying from Savannah, Georgia) and a cloud-sampling aircraft (flying from Wallops Island) to look closer at how snow is distributed in the clouds.

    NASA explains that the “cloud processes” responsible for snowstorms are difficult to measure, and forecast models can’t reproduce them very well. That makes for poor snowfall predictions.

    “People see pictures of these big swaths of clouds and think they’re snowing everywhere, but they’re not,” said IMPACTS principal investigator Lynn McMurdie at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Inside the clouds are these long narrow regions of more intense snow bands. We’re trying to understand why they form and how they evolve with the developing storm.”

    Since the last time East Coast snowstorms were studied from the air, instruments have become much more advanced. NASA says now is “an ideal time to conduct a well-equipped study to identify key processes and improve remote sensing and forecasting of snowfall.”

    NASA’s ER-2 and P-3 aircraft will fly for three six-week deployments.

    -Meg Walburn Viviano

  • Five new NASA field research campaigns investigating a number of phenomena across the United States get underway this year. Credits: NASA

    NASA Embarks on Five U.S. Expeditions Targeting Air, Land and Sea

    NASA is sending five airborne campaigns across the United States in 2020 to investigate fundamental processes that ultimately impact human lives and the environment, from snowstorms along the East Coast to ocean eddies off the coast of San Francisco.

  • Air-LUSI takes off aboard an ER2 out of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, CA for an airborne campaign to measure the Moon from Nov. 13 – 17, 2019. Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

    New Moon-Seeking Sensor Aims to Improve Earth Observations

    A new instrument with its eye on the Moon is taking off aboard a high-altitude NASA plane to measure the Moon’s brightness and eventually help Earth observing sensors make more accurate measurements.

  • Views from NASA's Methane Source Finder, a tool that provides methane data for the state of California. The data are derived from airborne remote-sensing, surface-monitoring networks and satellites and are presented on an interactive map alongside infrastructure information. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    A Third of California Methane Traced to a Few Super-Emitters

    NASA scientists are helping California create a detailed, statewide inventory of methane point sources - highly concentrated methane releases from single sources - using a specialized airborne sensor. The new data, published this week in the journal Nature, can be used to target actions to reduce emissions of this potent greenhouse gas.

  • The tongue of Antarctica’s Dibble Glacier, as seen from the first flight of IceBridge’s final polar campaign. Credit: John Sonntag/NASA

    IceBridge Takes Flight from Down Under

    IceBridge has been gathering data on Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice for 10 years. It was designed to ‘bridge the gap’ in between the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which stopped collecting data in 2009, and ICESat-2, which launched in September 2018. Over the past decade, IceBridge has been based out of airports in Alaska, Greenland, Chile, Argentina and Antarctica – but for this final polar campaign, it has a new base at Hobart in Tasmania, Australia.

  • NASA’s P-3B science aircraft is fitted with remote-sensing instruments to measure a number of variables within and near clouds, including those related to precipitation and cloud droplets as well as aerosol size and composition. Credits: NASA

    Philippine Airborne Campaign Targets Weather, Climate Science

    Led by NASA, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the Manila Observatory in conjunction with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and the Philippine Department of Science and Technology, CAMP2Ex comprises an interdisciplinary, international team of field researchers, modelers and remote sensing developers.

  • Researchers dig out and measure a block of soil in Saskatchewan, Canada, during a field expedition for NASA’s ABoVE campaign. Soils in the Arctic and boreal regions have very thick organic mats that release large quantities of carbon to the atmosphere when a wildfire burns them. Credits: Sander Veraverbeke

    NASA Studies How Arctic Wildfires Change the World

    Wildfires in the Arctic often burn far away from populated areas, but their impacts are felt around the globe. From field and laboratory work to airborne campaigns and satellites, NASA is studying why boreal forests and tundra fires have become more frequent and powerful and what that means for climate forecasting, ecosystems and human health.

  • 2019 NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) students, mentors and faculty pose in front of the NASA DC-8 airborne laboratory. Credits: Megan Schill / NASA SARP

    Student Airborne Research Program Takes Flight over California

    Twenty-eight undergraduate students are participating in an eight-week NASA airborne science field experience this summer that will immerse them in the agency's Earth Science research.

  • NASA’s ER-2 aircraft, based at Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California, flies above the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, California, on Dec. 7, 2017. The aircraft was equipped with instrumentation to observe and measure everything from smoke aerosols to the combustion process as fuel burns and fire temperatures. The ER-2 will also make those observations and more during this year’s Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality (FIREX-AQ) campaign. Credits: NASA/Tim William

    Through Smoke and Fire, NASA Searches for Answers

    This summer, NASA is embarking on several field campaigns across the world to investigate longstanding questions surrounding fire and smoke. Aircraft will fly through smoke and clouds to improve air quality, weather and climate forecasting, and investigate fire-burned forests to capture ecosystem changes that have global impact.

  • The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second-largest body of ice in the world, covering roughly 650,000 square miles of Greenland's surface. If it melts completely, it could contribute up to 23 feet of sea level rise, according to a new study using data from NASA's Operation IceBridge.

    Study Predicts More Long-Term Sea Level Rise from Greenland Ice

    Greenland’s melting ice sheet could generate more sea level rise than previously thought if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase and warm the atmosphere at their current rate, according to a new modeling study. The study, which used data from NASA’s Operation IceBridge airborne campaign, was published in Science Advances today.

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