Tracking the West's Growing Wildfires

Tracking the West’s Growing Wildfires

Across the western United States, climate change has caused temperatures to rise, droughts to drag on, and vegetation to go thirsty. As a result, wildfires are occurring more frequently and over a longer time period each year. This phenomenon was exemplified recently in the Washburn Wildfire, which burned through the Eastern Sierras in California, including Yosemite National Park, for over three weeks in July 2022. Roads closed around and inside the park, and access was cut off to the Mariposa…

NASA Launches International Mission to Survey Earth’s Water

In Brief:

Led by NASA and the French space agency CNES, the Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission will provide high-definition data on the salt- and fresh water on Earth’s surface.

A satellite built for NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) to observe nearly all the water on our planet’s surface lifted off on its way to low-Earth orbit at 3:46 a.m. PST on Friday. The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) spacecraft also has contributions from…

2022 Arctic Summer Sea Ice Tied for 10th-Lowest on Record

According to satellite observations, Arctic sea ice reached its annual minimum extent (lowest amount of ice for the year) on Sept. 18, 2022. The ice cover shrank to an area of 4.67 million square kilometers (1.80 million square miles) this year, roughly 1.55 million square kilometers (598,000 square miles) below the 1981-2010 average minimum of 6.22 million square kilometers (2.40 million square miles).

This visualization of sea ice change in the Arctic uses data provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s…

NASA Software Maps Changes in Current and Future Animal Movements

In the face of growing environmental pressures, changing climates, and ecological damage, organisms around the globe have been forced to move from their historic ranges to find more suitable habitats. As these changes continue, the long-term survival of many species depends on their ability to safely traverse the landscape to find more optimal habitats. To improve animal connectivity and conservation strategies, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) climate change ecologist and NASA-funded principal investigator Kimberly Hall and her team of scientists updated the…

US-European Satellite Will Make World’s First Global Freshwater Survey

In Brief:

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission will make measurements of over 95% of Earth’s lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

Water is life, but for all its importance, humanity has a surprisingly limited view of Earth’s freshwater bodies. Researchers have reliable water level measurements for only a few thousand lakes around the world, and little to no data on some of the planet’s important river systems. The upcoming Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite will fill that enormous gap….

Arctic Sea Ice Maximum at Tenth Lowest in Satellite Record

On February 25, 2022, Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, coming in at the tenth lowest in the satellite record. The wintertime extent peaked at 5.75 million square miles (14.88 million square kilometers) and is roughly 297,300 square miles (770,000 square kilometers) below the 1981-2010 average maximum – equivalent to missing an area of ice slightly larger than Texas and Maine combined. This maximum ties with 2015 as the third earliest on record. Read the full…

Thawing Permafrost Could Leach Microbes, Chemicals Into Environment

In Brief:

Scientists are turning to a combination of data collected from the air, land, and space to get a more complete picture of how climate change is affecting the planet’s frozen regions.

Trapped within Earth’s permafrost – ground that remains frozen for a minimum of two years – are untold quantities of greenhouse gases, microbes, and chemicals, including the now-banned pesticide DDT. As the planet warms, permafrost is thawing at an increasing rate, and scientists face a host of uncertainties when…

Developing a Freshwater Health Index: Encompassing Earth Data, Community Concerns, and Climate Change

Earth's climate is changing, and one of the main impacts is on the water cycle. For example, there is an elevated risk of more frequent and intense flooding and droughts. Also, the amount of water flowing in individual streams and rivers is changing, and those changes affect water supplies to communities. NASA Earth science satellites and other remote-sensing techniques can fill in information gaps, but scientific data are just one piece of the larger puzzle when it comes to sustainable water…

NASA Finds Each State Has Its Own Climatic Threshold for Flu Outbreaks

A visualization of the AIRS instrument’s measurements of atmospheric water vapor around the globe during a few months of the flu study, which focused on data from 2003 to 2015. AIRS is on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/AIRS

In Brief:

NASA satellite data illuminates a critical relationship between low humidity and the outbreak of flu in the U.S.

What triggers an outbreak of the influenza virus? A new study of the flu in the 48 contiguous U.S. states, using data from the…