NASA has released a series of three educational videos to illustrate how math is used in satellite data analysis. The videos, filmed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, feature senior climate scientist Claire Parkinson. In the videos Parkinson explains how the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice covers are measured from satellite data and how math is used to determine trends in the data.
“These videos are for people interested in understanding something about how scientists use satellite data to learn about changes in the Earth system, especially changes in sea ice coverage,” Parkinson said.
NASA controls more than 17 Earth-observing satellites. Some collect data about sea ice coverage in various areas around the world. Scientists use this information to compare the ice covers over time and to calculate trends.
“The satellite data have given us a tremendous record of sea ice changes since the late 1970s,” Parkinson said. “In the Arctic, sea ice coverage has declined significantly; but in the Antarctic, sea ice coverage has actually increased somewhat, although by much less than the decreases in the Arctic.”
Parkinson said math is not only used to analyze sea ice concentrations. “One of the amazing aspects of math is how widely it can be applied,” she said. “The same techniques shown in the videos for sea ice coverage can be used in all sorts of applications, not just in Earth sciences but in a wide range of studies.”
Parkinson has been a climatologist at Goddard for 36 years. She authored a number of books on climate and developed a computer model of sea ice. Parkinson primarily researches polar sea ice and how the changes in sea ice relate to broader issues of global climate change.