February 20, 2024

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New NASA Satellite provides expanded climate data

3 min read

NASA is launching a multi-million dollar satellite that will give scientists more climate data than ever before.

WASHINGTON — The local weather here on earth may be a bit boring over the next couple of days, but there is about to be plenty of excitement in the sky later tonight. 

NASA is launching a spacecraft called PACE which stands for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem and the goal is to monitor our planet in a way we’ve never been able to before. It’s NASA’s first global climate observatory that will advance the way we look at things that impact us here in the DMV like air quality impacts from wildfires.

“PACE is going to be able to decipher smoke from dust from sea spray from clouds from salt,” explains PACE Project Applications Coordinator, Erin Urquhart. “And really knowing where all of those aerosols are coming from and how they’re interacting with each other, how they’re interacting with the ocean, and how they’re moving around the earth is really important. In terms of tracking wildfire smoke, we can understand where it’s coming from, where it’s going and that can be plugged into both local climate models and really local air quality health models to make sure we know the risk and the impact of wildfire smoke.”

It will also provide better data related to dangerous algae blooms which produce dangerous toxins that can harm people and animals.

“Existing satellites they tell you ok there’s an algae bloom there based on the reflection of chlorophyll, which is green, so PACE is going to be able to reflect all of the different colors around green,” Urquhart explained. “And so everything phytoplankton species has different characteristics and different reflection of color so for the first time NASA through the pace mission is going to be able to understand not just what’s there but who’s there…and the who’s there is really important for both ecosystem health and human health.” 

Urquhart has a great reference when it comes to understanding the complexities of the mission. She says to think of all of the NASA satellites in orbit as a box of crayons. Giving you eight colors you can drawer your picture with. PACE is like the mega-pack with 289 crayons to draw with. It will just give us so much more detail when it comes to looking at the earth and the air and the ocean and just our overall climate system.

This mission has been 21 years in the making and liftoff is scheduled to take place overnight at 1:33 Tuesday morning.  And if you’re up late…or early…you can watch the launch live here.

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2024-02-05 22:06:54

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