May 26, 2003 

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Satellite Terra
April 20, 2000

Predicting weather changes by monitoring Earth is easier now with the use of a satellite known as Terra. Another global project to study our planet and its climate went online when NASA’s new Earth observation satellite, Terra, beamed back its first pictures of our planet.

From its polar-orbit , Terra globally monitors interactions among the Earth’s atmosphere, lands, oceans, solar radiation and life in an attempt to predict future climate changes more accurately. According to Dr. Yoram Kaufman, Terra Project Scientist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Maryland, "Terra is measuring a wide array of vital signs, many of them for the first time." The data collected by the satellite will give a better understanding of the Earth, in terms of natural and human-induced changes, and the effect of Earth’s climate on the quality of life. The pictures released today are of the Indian subcontinent, showing the relationships among population concentrations, air pollution and vegetation.

According to scientists working on the Terra project, the project will address some of the following questions:

  • What are the changes in the extent of snow and ice, and why are 2-3 of the world’s glaciers disappearing each week?
  • What are the variations in the phytoplankton in the ocean and how are these plants affected by windblown Saharan dust?
  • How does the availability of water vapor and the presence of pollutants affect cloud formation, properties and precipitation?
  • Is the Earth system taking in more of the Sun’s rays than it reflects and emits back into space, or is the heat budget in balance?
  • Is there a change in the frequency of wild fires, floods, & volcanic eruptions? Is the frequency related to climate change?
Data from the Terra satellite will complement earth-based measurements by Argo floats, allowing climatologists to make more reliable weather predictions.

by Sotiria Lafazanidis

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