Every week is 'Earth Science Week' at NASA

October 16, 2003

While mid-October has been designated Earth Science Week around the world, every week is Earth Science Week at NASA. To mark its continuous dedication to studies of Earth's land, sea and air, NASA will join the American Geological Institute (AGI) and the U.S. Geological Survey in celebrating Earth Science Week, October 12-18th.

"Eyes on Planet Earth: Monitoring our Changing World" will be this year's Earth Science Week theme, to recognize the importance of monitoring the Earth for evaluating its present state and making predictions about future changes. NASA's Earth Science satellites and other technologies are a vital part of mankind's global watch over our home planet.

Founded by AGI in October 1998, the purpose of Earth Science Week is to engage students in discovering the Earth sciences; to encourage Earth stewardship through understanding; and to motivate geoscientists to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about the Earth. During the week, museums, universities and agencies have organized on a state, national and international level to sponsor events that promote study of and interest in our planet. NASA has joined an extensive educational outreach program to schools around the country, to promote Earth Science Week.

"The only way to really understand Earth's climate and protect the Earth's scarce resources is to look at the Earth as a single, whole system which satellites enable us to do. This holistic approach allows us to see how the oceans affect climate on land, for example, and how natural and human activities in one part of the world affect other parts of the world," said Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator for NASA's Earth Science Enterprise.

NASA's "eyes," its array of satellites, airborne instruments flown on research aircraft and balloons, and ground-based instruments, have been monitoring changes around the world for 45 years, helping scientists and the general public better understand the changes taking place on our planet. This year, NASA centers around the country have accomplished an impressive range of Earth Science research using data from the various satellites and instruments, as well as computer climate models.

One of the year's major studies focused on Arctic ozone loss. Scientists from various NASA centers participated in an international arctic ozone study in Kiruna, Sweden. NASA researchers and more than 350 scientists from around the world worked together to measure ozone and other atmospheric gases. In other 2003 highlights, NASA research brought to light a near record size ozone hole over Antarctica. When Hurricane Isabel battered the East Coast in September, data from various NASA satellites provided researchers and the public alike with a better understanding of the storm and its effects.

NASA satellites are helping understand wildfires and the factors that cause them to spread. NASA satellite data has also shown that the Earth has become greener over the past 20 years as climate changed, because plants found it easier to grow.

Several new NASA instruments were launched or began delivering science data. The Aqua satellite is now providing continuous, global measurements of atmospheric temperature and humidity that may be used by weather prediction agencies to improve their forecasts. Two sets of satellites are providing double measurements of sea and air. The JASON and TOPEX/Poseidon satellites are flying in tandem, providing data on sea surface heights that is used in studies of global ocean circulation, weather and climate. A Japanese satellite with a NASA ocean winds instrument is flying in tandem with an identical Seawinds instrument on NASA's QuikScat satellite - providing continuous measurements of sea surface wind speed and direction. These sorts of data can be applied to commercial shipping, studies of ocean energy release, and the global water cycle.

NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment released its first map of Earth's gravity field, revolutionizing our understanding in this area. The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission continues to release new continental data sets of our home planet. NASA also launched its Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation satellite, designed to quantify ice sheet growth or retreat and answer questions concerning aspects of Earth's climate system, including global climate change and changes in sea level.

Every day, every year, NASA continues the aims of Earth Science Week through its plethora of research on our home planet. And this is just the beginning.

With our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Agriculture and others, we will continue to unravel the mysteries of our planet. Our future holds many new missions and use of new technologies, such as uninhabited aerial vehicles and advanced technologies that will help us better understand and protect our home planet while inspiring the next generation of Earth Science explorers.

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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