NASA takes research to the sky and sea to track impacts of climate change. Here's how

Zach Fuentes Image
Monday, May 8, 2023
NASA takes to the sky and sea, track impacts of climate change
NASA is researching the impacts of climate change in unexpected places. Their groundbreaking research is happening in the bay waters, all thanks to the "S-MODE."

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- NASA has been tracking the impacts of climate in a place you might not expect the agency to do research. The work is being done in and over the ocean.

"When you think NASA you think space, but we do look at the Earth a lot," said Erin Czech, project manager for NASA's S-MODE or Sub-Mesoscale Ocean Dynamics Experiment, "We have a lot of missions, across the globe, trying to understand our Earth better, S-MODE is one of them."

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The incredible, ground-breaking work is underway to better understand the impact the ocean has on Earth's climate.

"We have a number of robotic drones, in the water collecting data," Czech said, "We also have three aircraft in the air. So it's a lot of platforms, looking at the ocean and trying to understand it better."

The ocean makes up 70 percent of the Earth's surface but experts say there's still so much we don't know about it.

NASA's S-MODE mission is working to understand it at a smaller level diving in deeper to understand how small parcels of water interact with each other, what kind of energy they produce and how that all contributes to the earth's climate.

"It's really important to understand the physics of how this operates, so that we can better model things like sea level rise, other aspects of climate change into the future."

The research is happening just 150 miles off the coast of San Francisco, an area researchers say is perfect for the kind of research they're doing.

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"This particular part of the ocean, has a lot of the small scale eddies. So it's predictable," Czech said, "We know that if we're going to do a major campaign, we have a really good chance of finding these features that we really want to look at."

The researchers are doing a lot of the work from a vessel named after the legendary Sally Ride, a spot that's become a second home to the experts.

"There are about 20 researchers on board, they have been out there for about a month straight," Czech said, "They do not go back into port, they are out there doing research 24/7."

This is the final campaign of the research and so far the work they say, has all been worth it.

"We've got terabytes of data," Czech says of the work done so far, "What happens next is that the scientists will go back to their home institutions, they will make sense of it, they're gonna write papers about it, we will release it to the public."

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