Scientists around the world are conducting research into issues surrounding the availability and quality of freshwater, studying drought, ground water, surface water, soil moisture, weather events, and more. This series of articles, many first published as part of the Sensing Our Planet series, explores this vital topic and the important research that is leading to the development of new measurements and data products.
Crisis in the Crescent
Drought turns the Fertile Crescent into a dust bowl.
Heart of drought
A mighty forest fades in the Congo.
Leaving dry lands behind
Census and climate data uncover internal migration patterns in North Latin America and the Caribbean.
Out of Africa
Researchers revise the story behind Puerto Rico’s 2015 drought.
Frozen ground, or permafrost, is important with regards to a changing climate. With thawing, not only does the ground become structurally unstable, but methane, a greenhouse gas, is released, exacerbating the warming.
A spread of green
People and heat spread north into Arctic permafrost.
Frozen Soils and the Climate System
Characterizing the timing, duration, thickness and areal extent of seasonally frozen soils.
In the Arctic darkness
Beneath a frozen surface, stirrings.
Riding the Permafrost Express
Researchers use innovative techniques to protect the newly constructed Qinghai-Xizang railroad across the Tibetan Plateau from permafrost.
A glacial pace
Satellites keep an eye on ice loss and gain in Alaska.
A submarine retreat
New maps get to the bottom of Greenland’s outlet glaciers.
Breakup of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf
Biggest ice shelf in the Arctic was breaking apart.
Lakes hidden under the Antarctic ice sheet may play a role in its stability.
Fire and Ice
Geography of Greenland is an important factor in snow and ice melt.
Fragment of its Former Shelf
Ice shelf disintegrates in a mere 35 days.
Series of lessons and activities for middle school children.
Himalayas heat pump
Polluted air over Asia is changing patterns in remote mountain ranges.
A broad view of Greenland's ice
New Light on Ice Motion
Tracking subtle ridges left by slight changes in flow pattern.
Sizing up the Earths Glaciers
In the Alps, glaciers are retreating and disappearing every year, much to the dismay of mountain climbers, tourist agencies, and environmental researchers.
Space-based Ice Sight
After a century of exploration and research, much remains unknown about the so-called seventh continent of Antarctica.
The un-ice age
Earth’s remaining ice sheets head for the ocean.
By the end of the 2002 season, the total area of surface melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet had broken all known records.
Groundwater is water stored below the surface in soils and the pore spaces of rocks, similar to a water-soaked sponge. Because we rely on this source of water for consumption and irrigation, knowing its availability is critical.
In Mexico’s escalating water crisis, a view from the sky provides answers.
Getting at groundwater with gravity
Scientists use a pair of new satellites to keep up with groundwater resources.
Invisible pollutants lurk under Italy’s most populous valley.
Natural hazards, such as floods, fires, and cyclones, are extreme events that occur naturally but pose a danger to humans. Researchers use Earth observation data to monitor the events for more efficient response and assessment of impacts.
Flame & Flood
Using past fires to predict future fire and flood hazards.
Local knowledge plus satellites may help farmers catch a crop.
The Flood Hunters
Researchers develop a long-term archive of satellite data that will help hydrologists monitor floods, allow aid agencies to pinpoint flood-prone regions, and provide information for modeling some of the Earth's complex hydrologic cycles.
Precipitation, including both rain and snow, is measured to advance our understanding of Earth's water cycle. Understanding rainfall patterns aids in forecasting of extreme events and monitoring seasonal snow cover and ice is important for future freshwater availability.
Algorithms for the Retrieval of Rainfall from Passive Microwave Measurements
A comprehensive overview of a specific methodology to monitor rainfall on a global scale.
Collecting Data from the Ground Up: NASA’s Ground Validation Field Campaigns
Ground validation campaigns connect the dots between what is being remotely-sensed by a satellite instrument and ongoing Earth processes. (Ground Validation)
Data Chat: Dr. Gail Skofronick-Jackson.
Talking about NASA precipitation data with GPM Project Scientist Dr. Gail Skofronick-Jackson.
Distant fields of grain
Remote estimates of crop yields help international aid agencies decide how to act.
Mountains of precipitation
Learning how terrain shapes storms is no walk in the park.
On Thin Ice
Discriminating between areas of open water and ice on the, Great Slave Lake.
Rooting out rainfall
Polar water fuels off-kilter rainfall in the tropics.
Signs of snow
Aircraft help probe the surface of Arctic sea ice.
Snow and Ice Extent
Polar research operations depend largely on local weather conditions and the fortitude of both scientists and accompanying research equipment.
Climate modelers trying to replicate climate change on a global scale need to better understand smaller scale regional climate dynamics to account for the nuances of climate variability.
Snowlines over Kathmandu
Temporal distribution of the snow lines might shed light on the regional sources of snow.
Using NASA Earth Science Data to Help Manage Water Resources in the Navajo Nation: A Data Chat with Vickie Ly
A new computer application co-developed by Vickie Ly uses precipitation data from TRMM, GPM, and other sources to help the Navajo Nation manage water resources.
Researchers pursue elusive forecasts of mountain snow.
Sea ice, which forms as ocean water freezes, plays an important role in keeping temperatures in the polar regions cool and regulating global climate. Due to its highly reflective surface, or high albedo, sea ice reflects much of the sun’s energy back into space. As sea ice melts, the dark ocean surface is exposed allowing for absorption of the sun’s energy, further warming the oceans.
Climate Clues in the Ice
Trends in the length of the sea ice season and in the extent of the Arctic ice.
Disintegration of the Ninnis Glacier Tongue
Coastal changes resulting from the Ninnis disintegration are likely to have a significant impact on the behavior of regional sea ice.
Along the Antarctic Peninsula, sea ice and phytoplankton are becoming scarce.
Ice & Sky
Presence or absence of sea ice on the oceans is the most important factor in controlling energy and mass exchange at high latitudes.
Ice, like time, fundamentally expresses change.
In the zone
Sea ice may underpin the survival of Antarctic seabirds.
Life in Icy Waters
Biology of open water patches surrounded by ice
Oceanic Convection in the Greenland Sea Odden Region as Interpreted in Satellite Data
Generating regional sea ice distribution.
Phytoplankton and Polynyas
Ross Sea might play a greater role in global carbon cycling.
Polynyas CO2 and Diatoms in the Southern Ocean
How variations in sea ice cover affect biology.
Sea ice in the Southern Ocean defies predictions.
What might happen to the Antarctic food web if temperatures increase in the polar regions?
Younger sea ice and scarcer polar bears
The fate of older sea ice in the Arctic may be key to the future of polar bears.
Soils provide a habitat for a variety of organisms, a nutrient-rich medium for vegetation to take root and grow, and a filtration system for surface water. Understanding the conditions of the soil as well as the amount of moisture in the soil allows us to better forecast droughts and floods.
Back from the Field
A new surface model with an improved ability to reflect soil conditions, leading to more accurate precipitation forecasting.
Drought on the range
Ranchers want to know what to do about dry spells.
Looking for mud
Scientists stumble on a weird way to measure the moisture in soil.
Rounding up Data with a Golden Lasso: Getting Soil Moisture Data from SMAP to DAAC
NASA's SMAP team turns raw satellite data into more than a dozen data products for data users around the world.
The dirt on tornadoes
Moisture on the ground may fuel more violence in the sky.
The Magic of Water
Soil moisture is one of the components of land-surface evapotranspiration, and is a required parameter for evaporation calculations.
Surface water includes lakes, rivers, and generally all water flowing across the surface of Earth. Understanding this important piece of the water cycle allows us to better prepare for and respond to weather-related events and provides an assessment of freshwater availability.
A tale of two rivers
Complex structures keep the Mississippi River out of the Atchafalaya, for now.
Cattle crops and coral: Flood plumes and the Great Barrier Reef
Understanding river runoff will help solidify the link between land use and coral health.
Connecting the drops
Scientists take a census of water.
Understanding the impact of river hydrology helps researchers assess the status of an entire basin.
Sensing the swamp beneath the trees
A technique to study land senses water-level changes in the Mississippi River delta.
To the lighthouse
Where is the water going in the Great Lakes?
Mapping stormwater runoff in Southern California helps keep toxins at bay. (Surface Water)
Waiting for Gojal
Scientists and satellites hold vigil on a newborn lake in Pakistan.
Where the wetlands are
A new map breaks down conservation borders.
The availability of clean water for consumption and use is essential. Monitoring water quality from remotely-sensed data provides a measure of ocean color, which is affected by chlorophyll content, sediment, and dissolved organic matter.
Cleaner water from space
Scientists use satellites to help keep water fit to drink.
Cold symmetric and cryptic
Researchers aim a barrage of sensors at nature's most enduring hieroglyphs.
Daymet Data Take the Planet's Pulse
Daymet data from NASA’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center (ORNL DAAC) provide almost 40 years of weather measurements for North America and are ORNL DAAC’s most popular products.
Freezing in a warming world
The Easter Freeze of 2007 provides clues to the future of plants.
Two meteorologists pioneered a new application of a single passive microwave frequency using DAAC data in 1995.
New methods help Argentinian farmers brace for bad weather.
Meet some of the scientists using Earthdata for freshwater research and applications around the world.
Ben Holt, studying polar sea ice, coastal oceanography, and marine pollution
Bridget Seegers, developing new ways to study water quality and track harmful algal blooms
David Mocko, using land-surface models to study drought
Dr. Anne Nolin, studying mountain ecosystems
Dr. Christian Kummerow, studying the water budget
Dr. Gina Henderson, studying the connections between tropical and Arctic weather and climate
Dr. Joan Ramage, studying glaciers and snowmelt
Dr. Mark Anderson, studying the way frozen surfaces react to changing atmospheric conditions
John Lehrter, studying the water quality of estuarine and coastal environments
Last Updated: Aug 7, 2019 at 2:33 PM EDT