Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NASA to study how African fires affect climate

Jan Piotrowski in Climate scientists have received a boost of up to US$150 million from US space agency NASA for a five year campaign to probe how air pollution, manmade fires across Africa and warming oceans may affect our climate.

The money will be split equally among five projects under the umbrella of the agency’s Earth Venture initiative, which is designed to fill major knowledge gaps in earth sciences. A mixture of plane flights and surface measurements will shed light on processes that NASA’s satellite missions cannot pick up.

The projects are: Atmospheric chemistry and air pollution, Ecosystem chan
ges in a warming ocean, Greenhouse gas sources, African fires and Atlantic clouds, and Melting Greenland glaciers....  This is NASA’s second series of Earth Venture suborbital projects, recommended by the National Research Council in 2007. In 2010, the first series of five projects was selected.

"These new investigations address a variety of key scientific questions critical to advancing our understanding of how Earth works," said Jack Kaye, associate director for research in NASA's Earth Science Division in Washington in a NASA press release. “These innovative airborne experiments will let us probe inside processes and locations in unprecedented detail that complements what we can do with our fleet of Earth-observing satellites.”

Collecting hard data is the goal, but NASA scientist Hal Maring says that it is much more than an academic exercise — all projects were selected with a “heavy bias” towards their relevance for policy. “Our mission is to push the boundaries of field science to address weaknesses in our knowledge of Earth systems,” he says. “But behind these words is the assumption that the science better make a difference.”...

NASA image of fires in the Gambia in 2002

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