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Marshall Space Flight Center: Understanding the Earth

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Understanding the Earth

A model of how water and potential floods might move through the Nzoia watershed in the Lake Victoria Basin. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center works to improve our quality of life through discoveries in Earth science. Researchers here focus on studying the atmosphere, water vapor, winds, temperatures at different altitudes, lightning and aerosols -- minute particles in the air. Marshall scientists use advanced technologies to observe and understand these aspects of the global climate system to improve agriculture, urban planning, response to severe weather and water resource management.

A Marshall Earth science project called SERVIR (Spanish for "to serve") uses a high-tech satellite visualization system to monitor changes in the environments across Mesoamerica, Eastern Africa and the Himalayas. SERVIR is improving the everyday lives of people throughout these regions by integrating satellite imagery and other geospatial data to help authorities there identify sudden environmental changes and respond faster to natural disasters. Marshall manages the SERVIR facility test bed and rapid prototyping.

Marshall researchers also serve the weather community across the Southeast United States and other regions of the nation. The NASA Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center, or SPoRT, at the National Space Science & Technology Center in Huntsville helps to incorporate NASA Earth science research into the National Weather Service forecast operations. The SPoRT Center is managed by Marshall scientists and its mission is executed in concert with other government, university and private sector partners.

Atmospheric scientists at Marshall are examining the forces of some of Earth's most intense hurricanes. They are developing instruments and technologies to analyze the development of weather systems into hurricanes and to collect imagery and data, delivering detailed displays of the hurricanes and their dynamics. This information helps forecasters predict severe weather and save lives.

Marshall also uses technology to improve life on Earth through a new initiative called OMEGAOMEGA, a collaborative project between Marshall and its industry and academic partners in the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville. OMEGA -- Observing Microwave Emissions for Geospatial Applications -- will enable global retrieval of soil moisture data using small, special-focus satellites for applications such as analyzing the global water cycle and improving weather and flood forecasting.

Earth scientists at Marshall also study the destructive elements and processes of severe weather. For example, the lightning research team investigates the causes and effects of lightning and analyzes a variety of atmospheric measurements related to thunderstorms. This team has developed some of the most comprehensive global lightning distribution maps ever produced.

The road to space starts on Earth, and our detailed research to improve life here is just as critical as our work above the sky, and an integral part of NASA's mission.

Page Last Updated: September 30th, 2013
Page Editor: Brooke Boen