PACE mission observatory update

Greetings from the NASA Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) Project at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). Scheduled for launch in late 2022, PACE is a strategic climate continuity activity that will not only extend key heritage ocean color, cloud, and aerosol data records, but also promises to enable new insight into oceanographic, biological, and atmospheric responses to Earth’s changing climate. We’re writing today to update the community on the mission instruments, all of which recently successfully completed their Preliminary Design Reviews (PDRs).

PACE’s primary instrument is a tilting, global spectrometer being built at GSFC that spans the ultraviolet to near-infrared region at 5 nm resolution and also includes seven discrete shortwave infrared bands centered on 940, 1038, 1250, 1378, 1615, 2130, and 2260 nm.  This ocean color instrument (OCI) will provide 2-day global coverage with a local Equatorial crossing time of 13:00 and nadir footprint of 1-km.  PACE’s OCI passed its PDR in March 2018 and is now beginning engineering test unit development.  Additional details can be found here: .

The PACE payload will also include two small multi-angle polarimeters that measure intensities of polarized light at several viewing angles.  The first, the Spectro-Polarimeter for Planetary Exploration (SPEXone), will be contributed by the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON). SPEXone will provide narrow swath (100 km), hyperspectral data at 2-nm resolution from 385 to 770 nm with 22 polarized bands at 5 view angles and a nadir footprint of ~2.5 km.  SPEXone passed its PDR in June 2018.  The second, the Hyper Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP-2) will be contributed by the University of Maryland Baltimore County.  HARP-2 will provide wide swath (1550 km) polarized and unpolarized data at 440, 550, 670, and 870 nm at 20 to 60 view angles, with a nadir footprint of ~3 km.  HARP-2 passed its PDR earlier this month.  Additional details can be found here: .

Please join me in congratulating the three instrument teams for surpassing their PDR milestones.  We expect that this trio of complementary technologies will enable improved understanding of aquatic ecosystems and biogeochemistry, provide new information on phytoplankton community composition and improved detection of algal blooms, advance aerosol, hydrosol, and cloud characterizations, and provide opportunities for novel ocean color atmospheric correction.

If you’d like to learn more about the PACE mission and its payload, please visit: , follow @NASAOcean on Twitter, and @NASA.Ocean on Facebook.

Warm regards,

Jeremy, on behalf of the PACE Project

NASA: Reconstructing the Recent History of Pacific Ocean Life

November 17, 2017

Through several decades of observations, oceanographers have found that the tropical Pacific accounts for about 20 percent of all primary ocean productivity. They also have found that the physics of that ocean basin—the way temperatures, winds, and currents stir up the water—strongly influences the biology moreso than in other parts of the global ocean.

But does the biology of the tropical Pacific change over time and, if so, how does it change? Satellite-based studies of ocean color over the past two decades have revealed some regional, seasonal, and annual patterns. But the large-scale patterns across multiple years and decades are much harder to decipher because of the short record of observations.

New research led by Stephanie Schollaert Uz (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) and colleagues could help ocean scientists better understand how patterns can change over time and how they might respond to a changing climate. The research team has built a statistical reconstruction of Pacific chlorophyll measurements dating back to 1958. It is the first basin-wide, monthly view of chlorophyll changes in the era of modern oceanographic measurements.

Chlorophyll has been measured consistently by satellites for the past 20 years. (There were some early, limited measurements in the late 1970s and 80s.) Chlorophyll is a proxy measurement for phytoplankton—floating, microscopic plant-like organisms that form the center of the marine food web; that is, they are the primary producers on which other organisms feed.

Like plants on land, phytoplankton use chlorophyll to harness sunlight for energy, so the abundance of chlorophyll tells us the abundance of phytoplankton. Furthermore, the location of phytoplankton usually tells us where we can find zooplankton, fish, and higher marine animals that consume them. This primary productivity also plays a key role in producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The maps above show chlorophyll anomalies in the equatorial Pacific Ocean; that is, how much the concentration of chlorophyll (and therefore phytoplankton) was above or below the long-term norm for the region. (Shades of blue represent less chlorophyll, while stronger greens show areas with more.) The maps are based on the reconstruction developed by Schollaert Uz and colleagues. They highlight a strong La Niña event in 1973, a very strong, basin-wide El Niño in 1982, and a strong Central Pacific El Niño in 1987.

In the tropical Pacific Ocean, sunlight is abundant year round, unlike other regions where changing seasons mean more or less light for phytoplankton. With consistent sunlight, the limiting variable for tropical phytoplankton is the amount of nutrients available near the surface—which is driven by how water is moved by currents and winds.

The “normal” state of the tropical Pacific Ocean has a warm, fresh pool of biologically unproductive water on the surface of the Western Pacific, while cooler, nutrient-rich water wells up in the Eastern Pacific. El Niño and La Niña events shift that balance. La Niña conditions spread the cooler, nutrient-rich waters farther westward across the Pacific, promoting phytoplankton growth across a wider area. El Niño brings much warmer water toward the Central and Eastern Pacific, shutting down the nutrient supply and much of the phytoplankton growth. Eastern Niños tend to suppress growth across the entire basin, while the effects of Central Niños are much more localized.

Schollaert Uz and colleagues constructed their statistical model by taking more than 11 years of real-world measurements from the SeaWiFS instrument and correlating them to other data and models of ocean conditions. They then compiled known measurements of sea surface temperatures and heights in the tropical Pacific dating back to 1958 and reconstructed what chlorophyll concentrations should have looked like every month for fifty years.

“Direct observations are best, but basin-wide observations of sea-surface chlorophyll do not exist before consistent ocean color measurements began in 1997,” said Schollaert Uz. “We took advantage of the fact that Earth is a coupled system, in which tropical Pacific Ocean biology is largely controlled by physics, and used the longer physical records to reconstruct a large-scale view of chlorophyll.”

The reconstruction will allow researchers to examine and extrapolate conditions during El Niño and La Niña events that were not captured by satellite. Several studies have shown, for instance, that winds and ocean upwelling might have been more or less intense in the 1950s through the 1970s, but there is no corresponding ocean color data to demonstrate how that affected biology. The new statistical model offers a look into the recent past that could ultimately help us better see the future.


NASA: Ocean Green, Blooming Ocean

EO Kids

These tiny organisms do big things for our #LivingPlanet. Learn more about our Ocean Green with #EOkids

EO Kids, a publication from the Earth Observatory, highlights science stories for a younger audience. In our new edition, we explore the swirling seas of phytoplankton blooms and invite kids to create their own NASA science visualization by making a flipbook. Read about how these tiny organisms are making a big impact on our living Earth. Flip through the pages and see the ocean change color as phytoplankton blooms and the land changes between brown and green as the seasons change. Watch as the Earth comes alive with the flip of a page.

Download the PDF at the following link

NASA: Our Living Planet From Space

13 Nov 2017

Life. It’s the one thing that, so far, makes Earth unique among the thousands of other planets we’ve discovered. Since the fall of 1997, NASA satellites have continuously and globally observed all plant life at the surface of the land and ocean. Earth is still the only planet we know of with life – with that in mind, our habitable home world seems evermore fragile and beautiful when considering the vastness of unlivable space.

Read more at NASA GMS