ICT and Big Data
NASA Investigating Climate Impacts of Arctic Sea Ice Loss

A new NASA field campaign will begin flights over the Arctic this summer to study the effect of sea ice retreat on Arctic climate, according to a recent announcement.

The Arctic Radiation IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment (ARISE) is NASA's first Arctic airborne campaign designed to take simultaneous measurements of ice, clouds and the levels of incoming and outgoing radiation, the balance of which determines the degree of climate warming.

In recent years, the Arctic has experienced increased summer sea ice loss. Scientists expect the exposure of more open water to sunlight could enhance warming in the region and cause the release of more moisture to the atmosphere. Additional moisture could affect cloud formation and the exchange of heat from Earth's surface to space. Researchers are grappling with how these changes in the Arctic affect global climate.

ARISE was planned over the last year to take advantage of NASA's existing capabilities for gathering data about ongoing changes in the Arctic. Satellites provided some information about clouds and the energy balance in the Arctic, but the multiple instruments flown during ARISE should provide further insight.

The array of instruments on ARISE should help scientists better observe how sea ice loss is affecting Arctic cloud formation and therefore the balance of incoming and outgoing radiation. Low-level clouds typically reflect more sunlight and offset warming, while higher clouds are typically less reflective and act to trap more heat in the atmosphere.

ARISE researchers will fly survey missions that target different cloud types and surface conditions, such as open water, land ice and sea ice. The missions will be timed to fly under the orbit paths of key satellite instruments, such as the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy Systems (CERES) instruments on multiple NASA satellites. Each morning, mission planners will look at satellite timings and weather forecasts to design flight plans that meet the most objectives of the campaign.

The ARISE campaign is a joint effort of the Radiation Sciences, Cryospheric Sciences and Airborne Sciences programs of the Earth Science Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. The agency develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. NASA then shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world.

In July, NASA launched its first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) has commenced a minimum two-year mission to locate Earth's sources of and storage places for atmospheric CO2, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas responsible for climate change and a critical component of the planet's carbon cycle.

Besides monitoring the planet’s changing environment, NASA also is a leader in researching the next generation of sustainable materials. Last year, the agency partnered with Nike, USAID, and the U.S. Department of State to bring together some 150 materials specialists, designers, academics, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and NGOs to catalyze action around one of the world’s biggest challenges — the sustainability of materials and how they are made.


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