Earth Sciences Research
NASA’s programs in the Earth Sciences seek to answer the questions: "how is the Earth changing?” and “what are the consequences for life on Earth?". Research is being conducted in six focus areas:
- Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems
- Atmospheric Composition
- Climate Variability and Change
- Earth Surface and Interior (Geology)
- Water and Energy Cycle
Research into ecosystems and their role in the global carbon cycle is conducted through direct observation of vegetation in forests and wetlands, and also during fires. Observations are also used as inputs for ecological modeling. Atmospheric composition is studied by direct measurement and through modeling. In both cases, observations are generated in the context of top-level theory, and synthesized and developed to explain and predict the observations, including temporal and spatial variation.
To obtain the observations, which are critical to validation of theoretical work, the Earth Sciences Division conducts airborne science campaigns designed to study the Earth’s atmosphere and biosphere. Past campaigns have studied phenomena such as the Earth’s protective ozone layer, the health and extent of vegetation in wetlands and the precise extent and location of wildfires.
Much of this data collection relies on resources and expertise in airborne research, including digital imaging sensors and in-sítu instrumentation onboard aircraft. With direction from NASA Headquarters, research is performed using a suite of general aviation aircraft as well as Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) operated by other agencies or commercial providers.
Future research within Earth Sciences is expected to broaden through collaborations with university-sponsored campaigns in which NASA has a supporting role. Some examples include work for the USDA/FS, USGS, DOE, EPA and others. The success of this collaboration in obtaining support for this work is critical to the future of NASA and Ames Research Center’s Earth Sciences efforts.