What is NASA Doing to Help Study Climate Change?


As various government agencies continue to study the critical effects of climate change, one agency in particular is going above and beyond thanks to their incredible technological (and financial) resources: NASA.  For decades, NASA has been using their innovative technology to fight climate change by recording data, develop climate-protecting systems, and use their platform to warn us of what’s to come if we don’t take action now.

NASA’s History with Climate Change

With their impressive resources, NASA has been able to study climate on a widescale, perhaps more than any other government agency, by observing changes in our planet’s ecosystem over the course of many years.  For almost 50 years, NASA has been intensely studying subtle changes in our environment, which allows us to look at decades’ worth of data to make clear connections between the rate at which our climate has changed.  At the same time, NASA’s instruments outperform virtually all others in the world, allowing for more accurate, detailed, and predictive data to become publicly available to policymakers, the general public, and corporations.

Meanwhile, NASA has something of a pull, given their relationships with scientists, private investors, and technology developers all around the world.  Through the sharing of this data, NASA is able to rally up teams of individuals who can work together to develop solutions, all while having the sources to invest in those who are unable to develop technology on their own.

NASA has been a major proponent of environmentally friendly industries for decades, having taken great strides in developing fully recyclable technology.  This has had a major influence on how other industries operate, finding ways to be cost-efficient and eco-friendly at the same time.

The Three Pillars of NASA’s Climate Observations

Initiatives undertaken by the agency in recent years generally revolve around 3 independent studies all related to climate change.  They are:

Solar Irradiance

Solar irradiance is the change in solar radiation that the Earth receives from the sun – in other words, sunlight.  It determines the amount of sunlight that reaches our planet’s surface, and is based on centuries of observations.  This amount varies to an extent every 11 years, between the sun’s solar minimum and solar maximum, which is the sun’s natural cycle.  This important data informs many climate models.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, which have all ramped up exponentially since the early days of the industrial revolution over two centuries ago.  Burning these fossil fuels enhances the warming of our planet’s surface, and is also critical in feeding climate models.

Aerosols, Dust, Smoke, and Soot

Finally, NASA observes the presence of aerosols, dust, smoke, and soot in our planet’s atmosphere, as these airborne particles are pollutants that have a cumulative effect on our planet’s temperature.

Of course, on top of these 3 major sources of data, NASA uses instruments to constantly measure things like precipitation, the greening and browning of forests, changes in clouds, and ice albedo, to observe subtle and major changes taking place in our environment.

Groundbreaking Studies

NASA has funded some pretty crucial studies over the years, putting enormous financial resources into answering critical questions about climate change and its impact on our planet.  One such study observed the direct impact of humans on climate change, back in 2021, finding that human behavior is the driving force between the changes that we are grappling with today.  Believe it or not, up until then, there was no conclusive data that was able to singlehandedly answer that question.

NASA has verified that the burning of fossil fuels plays the most serious role in climate change, and even has invested in alternative forms of energy in order to encourage the development of “green” alternatives.  Thanks to NASA’s technology, they’ve also been able to quantify previously unmeasured changes in climate, such as quantifying the amount of heat trapped in our planet’s system, and changes in clouds over the course of several years.

Now, in 2023, NASA is fighting harder than ever for the attention to remain on fighting climate change amidst a more bipartisan government than ever.  Observing numerous extreme weather events this year alone, NASA is urging government agencies to continue providing funding and resources to study climate change and develop new, climate-defensive technology.

NASA is Changing Our Ability to Understand Climate Change and Its Impacts!

Because of NASA’s innovation, funding, and other resources, the agency is able to provide us with more in-depth information about climate change than any other agency in the US.  At the same time, NASA has proven time and time again that they are dedicated to challenging any limiting beliefs about the role that we can play in addressing it, by developing new technology that positively impacts the environment.

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