We celebrated Earth Day on April 22, meaning missions into outer space is probably not the first thing that comes to mind.
“NASA has like, a unique perspective by seeing the Earth on a daily basis from space, from all these different satellites,” said Dr. Linette Boisvert, a NASA Sea Ice Scientist. “We’re looking at the oceans, the land, the atmosphere, vegetation, polar ice in the polar regions, etc.”
Getting a good look from the space on the surface of the Earth is a critical part of weather forecasting. This past winter, we saw the importance of monitoring ice cover on Earth from satellite imagery that showed cracks forming on Lake Erie, and the next day that ice broke away.
“We also look at soil moisture from space,” Dr. Boisvert explained. “So, we can see if you’re in a drought or if in different areas the soil is dry because it needs more rain. Or it’s really wet because you got a lot of rain.”
Over 50 years of data were collected by those satellites.
“We found that the Earth’s global temperatures have risen,” Dr. Boisvert told us. “And most importantly, in the Arctic regions, they’ve risen at twice the global rate.”
“These warmer temperatures have caused a rapid decline in sea ice cover, which affects the ocean and atmospheric circulation,” Dr. Boisvert elaborated. “The jet stream is becoming more wavy, it’s bringing this cold, polar air into more of the mid-latitudes. Whereas in the past when there was more sea ice cover in the fall, that didn’t happen.”