NPP Satellite Prevents Gap in Critical Climate Data

The consequences of global warming are not only challenging, but they are far-reaching, which is why NASA maintains a strong scientific focus on climatic and global change research. As the growing human population continues to burn fossil fuels and release carbon into the atmosphere at an accelerated rate, we are faced with a complex problem: a warming Earth.

A warmer Earth leads to warmer oceans that expand and rise from melting ice, potentially forcing millions of coastal residents to move inland. A warmer climate, even by just a few degrees, also means we could expect more extreme and erratic weather, from heavier blizzards to stronger hurricanes.

Measuring climate is not as easy as popping a thermometer in Earth's mouth every day. The crux of climate change is energy. In 1984, NASA began measuring and keeping a record of changes in Earth's energy with a satellite instrument known as ERBE (Earth Radiation Budget Experiment) and then its successor, CERES (Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System).

Five satellites and 27 years later, not a single year has passed without a record of Earth's energy budget. This year, the climate-monitoring torch is being passed to the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP), a satellite carrying the fifth edition of CERES.

Norman Loeb, a climate scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center and the principal investigator for CERES, gave us some insight into what he and other scientists have been able to discern from our current record of Earth's climate and why a long-term, continuous record is so important.

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