Satellites orbiting Earth hundreds of miles above the planet’s surface are helping put information into the hands of people around the world who make critical decisions about protecting wildlife, responding to drought and identifying hazards to public health.
All of this and more is possible due to the application of satellite data and images to improve the ways in which organizations and governments address challenges that society faces. Putting satellite data to work in this way is the goal of the Applied Sciences Program in the Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Many of the ways that NASA Earth science serves society are described in the program’s just-released 2014 Annual Report.
The report describes how the National Marine Fisheries Service uses environmental data from several satellites to study whale habitats. The service developed with Applied Sciences a means to predict the presence of whales in near-real time. Knowing where whales will be along their migratory routes is critical information for container ships and fishing vessels, which can take measures to avoid interaction with the whales.
In Bangladesh, flood forecasters used Jason-2 satellite-derived river height data to extend their three-five day forecasts to eight days, giving the public more time to get out of harm’s way. And officials in Ohio used satellite chlorophyll observations to help assess public health risks from, and target responses to, freshwater algal blooms.
Landsat imagery assisted the California Department of Water Resources to map drought effects on agricultural production in the Central Valley. The state used information on the extent of fallowed land to support decisions on allocation of drought emergency funds to counties for social services for farmworkers and their families.
The new annual report describes many other ways that Earth science serves society. The online report also includes videos as well as information on applications and satellite mission planning, program performance, support of natural disaster responses, and much more.
NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.