NASA selects UW-led project to study atmosphere layers

NASA selects UW-led project to study atmosphere layers
NASA selects UW-led project to study atmosphere layers

NASA selects UW-led project to study atmosphere layers

by Clarence Oxford

Los Angeles CA (SPX) May 15, 2024

A project led by the University of Washington (UW) aiming to better understand the Earth’s atmosphere is a finalist for NASA’s next generation of Earth-observing satellites. NASA has announced that these projects will each receive $5 million for a one-year concept study.

The project, STRIVE (Stratosphere Troposphere Response using Infrared Vertically-Resolved Light Explorer), focuses on the troposphere and the stratosphere, where significant atmospheric processes occur. It will observe key elements like temperature, ozone, water vapor, and aerosols, collecting 400,000 sets of observations daily.

Lyatt Jaegle, professor of atmospheric sciences at UW, leads the STRIVE project. The team includes partners from academia, industry, and federal science labs.

In addition to STRIVE, two other UW-involved projects are among the finalists. These teams will spend the next year refining their proposals, after which NASA will select two for implementation. The selected projects will have a budget of up to $310 million each to build the instruments, with launches planned for 2030 or 2032.

The STRIVE instruments will help monitor atmospheric changes such as the ozone layer’s condition and the movement of smoke particles from various sources. These observations could improve long-range weather forecasts by detecting early signs in the stratosphere.

Jaegle emphasized the importance of these observations for better weather forecasts: “Before a major weather event at the surface, there can be precursor signs that happen in the stratosphere,” he said. “Observing the stratosphere and how these signals propagate down will be key to getting better weather forecasts on subseasonal to seasonal scales, so two weeks to two months in advance.”

NASA is exploring faster and more cost-effective satellite missions. “NASA will still pursue the bigger missions, but these smaller missions are another tool that they’re moving forward with,” Jaegle said.

Other key members of the STRIVE team include Jun Wang from the University of Iowa and Luke Oman from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The project involves several other institutions, including the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Toronto.

Two other projects involving UW scientists are EDGE and Carbon-I. EDGE aims to measure the height of vegetation and ice sheets with a new laser instrument, while Carbon-I will track carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Both projects promise significant advancements in Earth observation.

NASA’s new Earth System Explorers Program supports these initiatives, recognizing the urgent need for data and scientific research to address climate change. Nicky Fox, associate director at NASA headquarters, said, “These proposals will help us better prepare for the challenges we face today, and tomorrow.”

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