News / Science & Technology

Aquarius Mission to Look at Connection Between Earth’s Climate, Oceans

Global map of average Sea Surface Temperature
Global map of average Sea Surface Temperature
Jessica Berman

The U.S. space agency NASA launched a new satellite observatory Friday that will measure the saltiness of the world’s oceans.  Scientists hope to learn what impact changes in ocean circulation and the salinity of the seawater are having on the globe’s changing climate.

Most of the Earth’s water cycle of rainfall and evaporation occurs over the oceans.  At the same time that global temperatures are rising, scientists for more than a century have noted from shipboard and buoy measurements a change in global water cycle and ocean circulation patterns.

These changes in rainfall and evaporation have led to a gradual cooling of sea surface temperatures in some places and warmer waters in others.

To get a global view of how changes in the water cycle might be affecting climate, NASA scientists will be measuring the salinity, or the amount of salt dissolved in seawater with the Aquarius satellite.

Experts say the $287 million orbiting observatory will be able to measure ocean salinity within an eighth of a teaspoon, or a pinch of salt, per gallon of water.

Gary Lagerloef of the non-profit Earth and Science Research Institute in Seattle, Washington is Aquarius’ principal investigator.

Lagerloef says the Aquarius mission will focus on studying the interaction between global water cycle, the ocean circulation and how these interactions influence climate and climate variability.

“One of the big overarching questions in climate is, is the global water cycle changing?  Many climate forecasting models suggest that it will change over time as the climate warms up," he said.  "But measuring these changes in rainfall over the ocean is very, very difficult to do.  But salinity is actually a very important parameter of what might be going on.”

The Aquarius will generate monthly maps of saltwater circulation around the globe.  Ocean water is saltiest in regions where evaporation is greater than rainfall and there’s less ocean salinity in places where rainfall exceeds evaporation.

The Aquarius satellite is equiped with a suite of onboard instruments contributed by Canada, France and Italy to measure ocean salinity, including radiometers that will detect microwaves from the surface of the world’s oceans as the observatory orbits every seven days.

Yi Chao, project scientist with the Aquarius mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena California, says the radiometers are like very precise, sensitive radio receivers.

"They collect the emissions from the ocean’s surface and different salt concentrations of the ocean emit different energy," Chao said.  "So once you have this emission measure from the radiometer, scientists go through the series of mathematic equations and formulas or you can think about a number of look-up tables to derive the salinity and to deliver the data required to answer those science questions.”

The Aquarius satellite, a collaboration between NASA and the Argentine space agency will join 13 other U.S. satellites devoted to studying the Earth, including rainfall levels, evaporation, sea levels and winds.

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs