AUSTIN (KXAN) – While you may think of the National Weather Service as being the sole organization in charge of weather and climate forecasting, they aren’t alone. 

There are two fundamental pillars behind ocean researcher Dr. Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer’s mission with NASA, and it’s much easier said than done.

“We only know what we see and what we observe,” she said. “NASA’s role is providing a consistent and sustained observing platforms, remote sensing instruments, satellite observing capabilities.”

Observing the Earth from space

NASA has the largest Earth-observing fleet of satellites in the world and they constantly work to evolve and improve their remote sensing capabilities. That information gets sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help with weather forecasting modelling. NASA also studies the impacts on Earth caused by a changing climate, including a new satellite just launched in November.

“Sentinal-6 Michael Freilich satellite system that measures sea surface height from space gives us information about sea level rise, ocean heat and hurricanes that are used by our operation partners at NOAA,” Shiffer said.

NASA has been in the Earth observation business for decades

Long-term observations are needed to really understand what’s happening with our changing climate and Earth’s system as a whole. Extrapolating the potential changes in our climate into the future would be impossible without the observations NASA provides.

Said Shiffer: “We strive to develop all our future projections about the earth based on data and known physics. without observations and without an understanding of current processes there is no-meaningful projections are not possible.”