Briefing Materials: NASA Field Campaign to Probe Ocean Ecology, Carbon Cycle
Released on July 17, 2014
NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 17, to discuss new fieldwork using coordinated ship and aircraft observations aimed at advancing the technology needed to measure microscopic plankton in the ocean from space.
A decade of observations from the SeaWiFS satellite are represented in this image, which shows average chlorophyll concentrations in Earth’s oceans from mid-September 1997 through the end of August 2007.
NASA’s Earth-observing satellites vigilantly monitor our planet’s ever-changing pulse from their unique vantage points in orbit. Together, these measurements help scientists better diagnose the “health” of the Earth system, including Earth’s oceans.
This image shows one of the possible ship paths (red) and coordinated aircraft flight lines (yellow) for SABOR. Scientists on the National Science Foundation's Research Vessel Endeavor, operated by the University of Rhode Island, depart from Narragansett, Rhode Island on July 18 to cruise through a range of ecosystems and water types between the U.S. East Coast and the Bahamas. NASA's UC-12 airborne laboratory, based at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, will begin making science flights over the Atlantic on July 20.
Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
In June 2014, technician Richard Martin installed instruments for the SABOR experiment, including a prototype lidar system, on the King Air, UC-12 – an airborne laboratory based at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The prototype lidar instrument uses a laser to probe into the ocean to a depth of about 160 feet, and will help answer questions such as how the concentration of phytoplankton changes with depth.
Scientists from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York will fly a polarimeter instrument, also uploaded to NASA’s King Air, UC-12. This instrument will measure properties of reflected light, such as brightness and the magnitude of polarization, from an altitude of about 30,000 feet.
These sensors, operated by Alex Gilerson of City College of New York, will continuously measure the intensity of light from the water in the polarized and unpolarized modes. The information will be used to figure out what the polarization of light reflected from the water can reveal about the characteristics of particulates in the water.
Scientists from City College of New York will also operate an underwater system to measure polarization of light below the ocean surface. The system is connected to a buoy and has computer controlled thrusters for the proper orientation with respect to the sun. Together, measurements from above and below the water will be compared with data from the airborne polarimeter.
A team led by Ivona Cetinic of University of Maine will pump seawater continuously through a suite of instruments, including a new instrument that measures polarization, to learn how particles in the water interact with light. The system will operate continuously and collect precious data everywhere the ship goes, from the coastal to open ocean.
Diatoms (left) are one of the types of phytoplankton that will be encountered during the SABOR experiment. These large phytoplankton are particularly important for fisheries and the ocean’s uptake of carbon dioxide. During SABOR, state-of-the-art instruments, such as the sorting flow cytometer (right) will be used to conduct some of the first direct measurements of phytoplankton biomass. Coupled with other ship and aircraft optical measurements, these data will create a foundation for determining phytoplankton biomass from space and understanding why the abundance of phytoplankton changes from year to year.