• ATom Mission Logo

    Atmospheric Tomography Mission (ATom)

    The Atmospheric Tomography Mission (ATom) will study the impact of human-produced air pollution on greenhouse gases and on chemically reactive gases in the atmosphere. Reductions of atmospheric concentrations of methane (CH4), tropospheric ozone (O3) and black carbon (BC) aerosols are effective measures to slow global warming and to improve air quality. Airborne instruments will look at how atmospheric chemistry is transformed by various air pollutants and at the impact on CH4 and O3.  Mitigation of these short-lived climate forcers is a major component of current international policy discussions.

    ATom deploys an extensive gas and aerosol payload on the NASA DC-8 aircraft for systematic, global-scale sampling of the atmosphere, profiling continuously from 0.2 to 12 km altitude. Flights will occur in each of 4 seasons over a 4-year period. They will originate from the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California, fly north to the western Arctic, south to the South Pacific, east to the Atlantic, north to Greenland, and return to California across central North America. ATom establishes a single, contiguous global-scale data set. This comprehensive data set will be used to improve the representation of chemically reactive gases and short-lived climate forcers in global models of atmospheric chemistry and climate. Profiles of the reactive gases will also provide critical information for validation of satellite data, particularly in remote areas where in situ data is lacking.

    ATom’s tomographic, large-scale sampling combined with parcel-by-parcel quantification of photochemical tendencies provides a strong response to the 2011 NASA Strategic Plan to Advance Earth System Science: meeting the challenges of climate and environmental change on a global scale.

    ATom improves predictions of human-caused and natural changes in climate forcing and air quality over the entire globe, engaging the science Focus Areas: Atmospheric Composition (primary); Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems (role of CH4), and Climate Variability and Change (radiative forcing of CH4 and O3).

  • ABoVE

    ABoVE is a NASA Terrestrial Ecology Program field campaign being conducted in Alaska and Western Canada. ABoVE’s science objectives are broadly focused on (1) gaining a better understanding of the vulnerability and resilience of Arctic and boreal ecosystems to environmental change in western North America, and (2) providing the scientific basis for informed decision-making to guide societal responses at local to international levels. Research for ABoVE links field-based studies with geospatial data products derived from airborne and satellite sensors, providing a foundation for improving predictive capabilities needed to understand ecosystem responses and societal implications of climate change. Scientists in Code SGE are modeling ecosystem carbon fluxes of CO2 and methane using NASA’s MODIS and Landsat imagery across the entire ABoVE study domain of Alaska and Canada. Christopher Potter (SGE) is a member of the JPL Science Team (C. Miller, PI) for “Quantifying CO2 and CH4 Fluxes from Vulnerable Arctic-Boreal Ecosystems Across Spatial and Temporal Scales”.

  • IceBridge Logo

    Operation IceBridge

    IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission, is the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever flown. It will yield an unprecedented three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice. These flights will provide a yearly, multi-instrument look at the behavior of the rapidly changing features of the Greenland and Antarctic ice.

    Follow the Icebridge blog here:

    and follow @NASA_ICE for mission tweets.

  • ORACLES Mission Logo

    ORACLES (ObseRvations of Aerosols above CLouds and their intEractionS)

    Southern Africa produces almost a third of the Earth’s biomass burning (BB) aerosol particles, yet the fate of these particles and their influence on regional and global climate is poorly understood. ORACLES (ObseRvations of Aerosols above CLouds and their intEractionS) is a five year investigation with three Intensive Observation Periods (IOP) designed to study key processes that determine the climate impacts of African BB aerosols. Particles lofted into the mid-troposphere are transported westward over the SE Atlantic, home to one of the three permanent subtropical Stratocumulus (Sc) cloud decks in the world. The stratocumulus “climate radiators” are critical to the regional and global climate system. They interact with dense layers of BB aerosols that initially overlay the cloud deck, but later subside and are mixed into the clouds. These interactions include adjustments to aerosol-induced solar heating and microphysical effects. As emphasized in the latest IPCC report, the global representation of these aerosol-cloud interaction processes in climate models is the largest uncertainty in estimates of future climate.

    The ORACLES experiment provides multi-year airborne observations over the complete vertical column of the key parameters that drive aerosol-cloud interactions in the SE Atlantic, an area with some of the largest inter-model differences in aerosol forcing assessments on the planet.

  • ATTREX Mission Logo

    Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX)

    Despite its low concentration, stratospheric water vapor has large impacts on the earth’s energy budget and climate. Recent studies suggest that even small changes in stratospheric humidity may have climate impacts that are significant compared to those of decadal increases in greenhouse gases. Future changes in stratospheric humidity and ozone concentration in response to changing climate are significant climate feedbacks.

    While the tropospheric water vapor climate feedback is well represented in global models, predictions of future changes in stratospheric humidity are highly uncertain because of gaps in our understanding of physical processes occurring in the Tropical Tropopause Layer (TTL, ~13-18 km), the region of the atmosphere that controls the composition of the stratosphere. Uncertainties in the TTL chemical composition also limit our ability to predict future changes in stratospheric ozone.

    Airborne Tropical TRopopause EXperiment (ATTREX) will perform a series of measurement campaigns using the long-range NASA Global Hawk (GH) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to directly address these problems.

  • Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) logo

    Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3)

    The Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) is a five-year mission specifically targeted to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin. HS3 is motivated by hypotheses related to the relative roles of the large-scale environment and storm-scale internal processes. HS3 addresses the controversial role of the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) in tropical storm formation and intensification as well as the role of deep convection in the inner-core region of storms. Addressing these science questions requires sustained measurements over several years due to the limited sampling opportunities in any given hurricane season. Past NASA hurricane field campaigns have all faced the same limitation: a relatively small sample (3-4) of storms forming during the campaigns under a variety of scenarios and undergoing widely varying evolutions. The small sample is not just a function of tropical storm activity in any given year, but also the distance of storms from the base of operations.

    The NASA Global Hawk UASs are ideal platforms for investigations of hurricanes, capable of flight altitudes greater than 55,000 ft and flight durations of up to 30 h. HS3 will utilize two Global Hawks, one with an instrument suite geared toward measurement of the environment and the other with instruments suited to inner-core structure and processes. The environmental payload includes the scanning High-resolution Interferometer Sounder (HIS), dropsondes, theTWiLiTE Doppler wind lidar, and the Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL) while the over-storm payload includes the HIWRAP conically scanning Doppler radar, the HIRAD multi-frequency interferometric radiometer, and the HAMSR microwave sounder. Field measurements will take place for one month each during the hurricane seasons of 2012-2014.

  • NASA Earth Exchange

    The objective of the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) is to bring scientists together with the tools, massive global datasets, and supercomputers necessary to accelerate research in Earth systems science and global change.

  • Alpha Jet

    In 2007, a Space Act Agreement between NASA Ames Research Center and H211, LLC began a relationship that ultimately led to the formation of the Alpha Jet Atmospheric eXperiment (AJAX) Project.


    NASA established a new science field campaign in 2009 to study sea ice roughness and break-up in the Arctic and high northern latitudes. This mission, known as CASIE-09 (Characterization of Arctic Sea Ice Experiment 2009), was conducted under the auspices of the International Polar Year (IPY), a major international scientific research effort.

  • NASA-CASA Project

    Access geographic data from NASA Ames Research Center, Ecosystem Science and Technology Branch for carbon sequestration predictions throughout the United States.

  • Predicted US maximum temperature, July 2099

    Ecological Forecasting

    NASA Ames is developing advanced computer technologies for converting massive streams of satellite remote sensing data into ecocasts that are easy to read and use.

  • COAST mission logo

    Coastal and Ocean Airborne Science Testbed (COAST)

    The Coastal and Ocean Airborne Science Testbed (COAST) Project is a NASA Earth-science flight project that will advance coastal ecosystems research by providing a unique airborne payload optimized for remote sensing in the optically complex coastal zone

    The COAST instrument suite combines a customized imaging spectrometer, sunphotometer system, and new bio-optical radiometer instruments to obtain ocean/coastal/atmosphere data simultaneously. The imaging spectrometer is optimized in the blue region of the spectrum to emphasize remote sensing of marine and freshwater ecosystems. Simultaneous measurements for empirical characterization of the atmospheric column will be accomplished using the Ames Airborne Tracking Sunphotometer (AATS-14). The radiometer system, designed and built by Biospherical Instruments, Inc., collects high quality radiance data from the ocean surface. Dr. Liane Guild of NASA Ames Biospheric Science Branch is the principal investigator.

    Credit: NASA/Jennifer Dungan

    Mission blog: