NASA’s New Earth Science Mission to Study Storms and Their Impact on Climate Models

">Nasa has selected a new Earth science mission that will study the behavior of tropical storms and thunderstorms, including their impacts on weather and climate models. The mission will be a collection of three SmallSats, flying in close coordination, called Investigation of Convective Updrafts (INCUS), and is expected to launch in 2027 as part of NASA’s Earth Venture program.

NASA selected INCUS as part of a solicitation from the Earth Venture Mission-3 (EVM-3) agency which sought comprehensive space surveys to answer important scientific questions and produce socially relevant data in the field of Earth Science. NASA received 12 proposals for EVM-3 missions in March 2021. After detailed review by groups of scientists and engineers, the agency selected INCUS for further development.

“Each of our Earth science missions is carefully chosen to add to a strong portfolio of research on the planet we live on,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Missions Directorate in Washington. . “INCUS fills an important niche in helping us understand extreme weather events and their impact on climate models, all of which serve to provide critical information needed to mitigate weather and climate effects on our communities. “

Cumulonimbus storm clouds

Huge cumulonimbus storm clouds can be seen in this photo taken on August 15, 2014, looking east toward the Atlantic Ocean from the area of ​​Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base ( now the Cape Canaveral space station) in Florida. NASA has selected a new Earth science mission called Investigation of Convective Updrafts (INCUS) that will study the behavior of tropical storms and thunderstorms, including their impacts on weather and climate models. Credit: NASA / Jim Grossmann

INCUS aims to directly explain why convection storms, heavy precipitation, and clouds occur exactly when and where they form. The survey stems from the 2017 Decennial Earth Sciences Survey of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which presents ambitious but essential research and observation directions.

“In a changing climate, more precise information about how storms develop and intensify can help improve weather models and our ability to predict the risk of extreme weather conditions,” said Karen St. Germain, Director from NASA’s Earth Sciences Division. “This information not only deepens our scientific understanding of Earth’s changing processes, but can help inform communities around the world.”

Climate change is increasing the heat in the oceans and making it more likely that storms will intensify more often and faster, a phenomenon that NASA scientists continue to study.

Storms start with a rapid increase in water vapor and air that create towering clouds ready to produce rain, hail, and lighting. The greater the mass of water vapor and air that is carried up through the atmosphere, the greater the risk of extreme weather conditions. This vertical transport of air and water vapor, known as convective mass flow (CMF), remains one of the great unknowns of weather and climate. Systematic CMF measurements over the full range of conditions would improve the representation of storm intensity and limit high cloud feedbacks – which can add uncertainty – in weather and climate models.

INCUS’s principal investigator is Susan van den Heever from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. The mission will be supported by several NASA centers, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, with key components of the satellite system to be supplied. by Blue Canyon Technologies, and Tendeg LLC, both located in Colorado. The mission will cost around $ 177 million, not including launch costs. NASA will select a launch vendor in the future.

NASA’s Earth Venture program consists of low cost, science driven, competitively selected missions / surveys. This program provides opportunities to invest in innovative science to improve our ability to better understand the current state of the Earth system and to further improve predictions of future changes. Earth Venture’s current program includes comprehensive missions, satellite instruments for opportunity flights, instruments for the continuity of earth science data logging and sustained suborbital surveys.

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