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 Seismic study reveals huge amount of water dragged into Earth's interior
18.12.2018 | National Science Foundation

nachricht A damming trend
17.12.2018 | Michigan State University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pressure tuned magnetism paves the way for novel electronic devices

18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

New type of low-energy nanolaser that shines in all directions

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA research reveals Saturn is losing its rings at 'worst-case-scenario' rate

18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>