Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA selects GSFC-led mission to study the role of salinity in ocean circulation and climate

12.07.2002

As part of the Earth System Science Pathfinder small-satellite program, NASA has selected a new space mission proposal led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., that will yield fresh insight into how oceans affect and respond to climate change -- knowledge that will help better life here on Earth. The mission, named Aquarius, promises to explore the saltiness of the seas in order to understand how the massive natural exchanges of water between the ocean, atmosphere and sea ice influence the ocean circulation, our climate, and our weather.

"Aquarius will provide the first-ever global maps of salt concentration on the ocean surface, a key area of scientific uncertainty in the oceans’ capacity to store and transport heat, which in turn affects Earth’s climate and the water cycle," said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator for Earth Science at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

The Aquarius mission will be led by principal investigator Dr. Chester J. Koblinsky of Goddard. Goddard will build and calibrate the highly accurate radiometers that are crucial for the detection of ocean salinity and will manage the mission after launch and provide the science data center. The project is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

NASA will partner with the Argentine space program on the Aquarius mission, building on a successful long- standing relationship between NASA and Argentina. In all, over 17 universities and corporate and international partners will be involved in the Aquarius mission.

Aquarius is named after the Water Bearer constellation, because of its objective to explore the role of the water cycle in ocean circulation and climate. Aquarius will launch in 2007 and will orbit the Earth for at least three years, repeating its global pattern every 8 days. Within two months, Aquarius will collect as many sea surface salinity measurements as the entire 125-year historical record from ships and buoys, and provide the first measurements over the 25 percent of the ocean where no previous observations have been made.

"About 80 percent of atmosphere-water exchange occurs over the oceans," says Koblinsky. "These exchanges are important to weather and climate prediction, but are poorly understood."

According to Koblinsky, patterns of ocean surface salt concentration result from many factors: fresh water exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere (evaporation or precipitation), input from rivers and ground water, melting and freezing of polar ice, ocean currents and mixing.

"Global salinity measurements will allow us to closely monitor these processes for the first time, he says. "Global observations of sea surface salinity will also advance our understanding of ocean circulation and, perhaps, allow us to minimize the impacts of large-scale natural events in the future."

Because fresh water is light and floats on the surface, while salty water is heavy and sinks, Koblinsky says changes in salt concentration at the ocean surface affect the weight of surface waters. At high latitudes, melting sea ice, increased precipitation, and/or river inputs will make surface waters less salty.

"This density change could diminish the overturning ocean circulation, which brings warm water poleward on the surface to replace the sinking water," he says. "This would restrict the ocean-atmosphere heat pump that normally warms the atmosphere, leading to possible dramatic changes in climate."

In the tropics, increased precipitation can lead to fresh surface layers on the ocean, which heat up, and modify the energy exchange with the atmosphere, affecting El Nino and Monsoon processes.

NASA will fund up to $175 million for each of the two selected missions. The selected missions will have approximately nine months to refine their proposals to mitigate risk before mission development is fully underway.

NASA issued an Announcement of Opportunity and initially received 18 proposals, six of which were selected for detailed assessment, with two now moving on toward final implementation.

NASA conducts Earth science research to better understand and protect our home planet. Through the examination of Earth, we are developing the technologies and scientific knowledge needed to explore the universe while bettering life on our home planet.

Cynthia O’Carroll | EurekAlert

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system
21.07.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Scientists shed light on carbon's descent into the deep Earth
19.07.2017 | European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>