Global Prediction, Monitoring and Response

Though NASA is first and foremost a space agency, NASA also has a long tradition of Earth Science. Our rigorous study and models of the third planet in our solar system help policymakers and citizens better understand and address the impacts of climate change. NASA's persistent Earth monitoring capabilities from satellites, airborne systems, and ground truth stations provide valuable data for scientific analysis and assessment of Earth science systems. Our technologies, systems, and unique facilities, from remote sensors to supercomputers, enhance our awareness of changing conditions and improve responsiveness—even during disasters.

Current projects and programs, typically undertaken in partnership with other Agencies, universities, and companies, leverage and amplify NASA Ames' Earth Science and Intelligent Systems Division capabilities and expertise in three overlapping areas: Predicting and Modeling Global Changes, Monitoring and Assessing the Risks, and Responding to Catastrophic Events.


Predicting and Modeling Global Changes

A range of current programs and projects utilize NASA's unique Earth observations and predictive models to advance our scientific understanding of environmental issues.



The Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (or TOPS) enables the daily monitoring and prediction of numerous biospheric variables that are important indicators of the events happening within the Earth system.

Tops Diagram



The Carbon Query and Evaluation Support Tools (CQUEST) uses a web-based interface to provide imagery, maps, and numerical outputs from a complex NASA process-based earth system simulation model.



Planetary Skin

The Planetary Skin Project develops platforms focused at monitoring, authenticating, certifying, monetizing, and trading carbon flows from global rainforests and then extending the platform into other critical biosphere systems—or planetary skin elements—such as water, biodiversity, food production, etc. View a slide show about the Planetary Skin Project, and other NASA collaborative projects, presented at the 2008 Connected Urban Development Global Conference in Amsterdam.

planetary skin map


Urban Eco-Map

The Urban Eco-Map Project focuses on providing the urban citizens, policymakers, and researchers (e.g., in the City of San Francisco) with information regarding the their impact on climate change and related ecological systems.

urban map



Monitoring and Assessing the Risks

NASA Ames advances and integrates NASA data, technologies, and systems to inform policy and resource management decision-makers and increase public awareness about environmental conditions and risks.


Ecosystem Function

The Ecosystem Function research at NASA Ames is focused on learning how ecosystems respond to environmental change. While some scientists use remote sensing to provide a global or regional-scale picture, other researchers are busy on the ground taking measurements locally. They are interested in such things as species composition, changes in gene expression, and changes in carbon dioxide flux from soils, all of which help answer the following questions: 1) How does ecosystem function change in response to fire and clear-cutting? 2) How does ecosystem function change when diseases spread in response to global climate change? 3) How does species diversity moderate the effects of environmental change? The data collected can then be modeled and used in a variety of ways, including biofuels and bioremediation applications. The research also can be used to build new climate change effect models. For a list of selected publications about this research, click here.

Yellowstone forest after fire



The Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites (ARCTAS) mission is part of NASA's contribution to the International Polar Year (IPY) and is focused on air quality and pollution transport in the Arctic.

ARCTAS Aircraft



Summer deployment of the Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites (ARCTAS) mission started with a collaboration with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to undertake coordinated flights looking at California air quality. Watch the story on KGO-TV San Francisco. View a slide presentation about ARCTAS-CARB 2008. Also available is a report on California Late June Climatology based on ARCTAS-CARB data.

ARCTAS logos



Rights-of-Way Autonomous Monitoring (RAM) will advance and demonstrate the ability to remotely detect, via advanced sensors and imaging systems, intrusions onto pipeline right-of-ways and leaks from liquid/gas pipelines. Download a pdf document (820K) with more information about NASA and pipeline monitoring.




Responding to Catastrophic Events

NASA Ames is collaboratively developing and transferring technologies, tools, and systems to improve situational awareness and response to global change impacts (e.g., disasters such as wildfires).



The Wildfire Research and Applications Partnership (WRAP) project evolved a highly-integrated air-to-ground system of sensors, data systems, and platforms for monitoring, processing, and feeding meaningful, highly-intelligible data to wildfire incident commanders.

Wildfire Map


Disaster Response

The Disaster Response team develops products, tools, and techniques for rapid image processing and the geopositioning of high resolution aerial imagery to provide an integrated view of disaster zones. Download a pdf document (2.1MB) with more information about the Disaster Response project.

Aerial Recon