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Freshwater Articles

Photo showing the lighthouse at Spectacle Reef.

This aerial view shows Spectacle Reef Light on the northwest side of Lake Huron, 11 miles east of Bois Blanc Island. (Courtesy US Coast Guard)

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.

List of Articles

Drought | Frozen Ground | Glaciers and Ice Sheets | Groundwater | Natural Hazards | Precipitation | Sea Ice | Soils | Surface Water | Water Quality | Weather Events

Drought
Drought is a period of time of abnormally low precipitation, resulting in shortages of water and low crop yields.

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.

Crisis in the Crescent
Drought turns the Fertile Crescent into a dust bowl.

Heart of drought
A mighty forest fades in the Congo.

Frozen Ground
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.

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.

Frozen Soils and the Climate System
Characterizing the timing, duration, thickness and areal extent of seasonally frozen soils.

Glaciers and Ice Sheets
As snow accumulates and becomes compacted, large rivers of ice, or glaciers, form. Ice sheets are similar, yet span large areas of the continents, as in Antarctica.

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.

The un-ice age
Earth’s remaining ice sheets head for the ocean.

Himalayas heat pump
Polluted air over Asia is changing patterns in remote mountain ranges.

Fathoming Antarctica
Lakes hidden under the Antarctic ice sheet may play a role in its stability.

Breakup of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf
Biggest ice shelf in the Arctic was breaking apart.

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.

Vanishing Ice
By the end of the 2002 season, the total area of surface melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet had broken all known records.

Fragment of its Former Shelf
Ice shelf disintegrates in a mere 35 days.

Space-based Ice Sight
After a century of exploration and research, much remains unknown about the so-called seventh continent of Antarctica.

New Light on Ice Motion
Tracking subtle ridges left by slight changes in flow pattern.

Glacier Power
Series of lessons and activities for middle school children.

Melt-down
A broad view of Greenland's ice

Fire and Ice
Geography of Greenland is an important factor in snow and ice melt.

Groundwater
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.

Closed season
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.

Soiled soils
Invisible pollutants lurk under Italy’s most populous valley.

Natural Hazards
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.

Growing Jamaica
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.

Flame & Flood
Using past fires to predict future fire and flood hazards.

Precipitation
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.

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.

Rooting out rainfall
Polar water fuels off-kilter rainfall in the tropics.

Signs of snow
Aircraft help probe the surface of Arctic sea ice.

Winters water
Researchers pursue elusive forecasts of mountain snow.

Snow and Ice Extent
Polar research operations depend largely on local weather conditions and the fortitude of both scientists and accompanying research equipment.

On Thin Ice
Discriminating between areas of open water and ice on the, Great Slave Lake.

Snow Sleuths
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.

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)

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.

Data Chat: Dr. Gail Skofronick-Jackson.
Talking about NASA precipitation data with GPM Project Scientist Dr. Gail Skofronick-Jackson.

Sea Ice
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.

In the zone
Sea ice may underpin the survival of Antarctic seabirds.

Fleeting phytoplankton
Along the Antarctic Peninsula, sea ice and phytoplankton are becoming scarce.

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.

Life in Icy Waters
Biology of open water patches surrounded by ice

Unexpected ice
Sea ice in the Southern Ocean defies predictions.

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.

Polynyas CO2 and Diatoms in the Southern Ocean
How variations in sea ice cover affect biology.

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.

Upper Crust
What might happen to the Antarctic food web if temperatures increase in the polar regions?

Ice Happens
Ice, like time, fundamentally expresses change.

Phytoplankton and Polynyas
Ross Sea might play a greater role in global carbon cycling.

Oceanic Convection in the Greenland Sea Odden Region as Interpreted in Satellite Data
Generating regional sea ice distribution.

Soils
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.

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.

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.

Surface Water
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.

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.

Wasting away
Mapping stormwater runoff in Southern California helps keep toxins at bay. (Surface Water)

A tale of two rivers
Complex structures keep the Mississippi River out of the Atchafalaya, for now.

Connecting the drops
Scientists take a census of water.

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?

Where the wetlands are
A new map breaks down conservation borders.

River Seasons
Understanding the impact of river hydrology helps researchers assess the status of an entire basin.

Waiting for Gojal
Scientists and satellites hold vigil on a newborn lake in Pakistan.

Water Quality
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.

Weather Events
Remotely-sensed data provides a global view for monitoring extreme weather events. Satellite-based profiles of temperature and moisture are routinely used in weather forecasting.

Freezing in a warming world
The Easter Freeze of 2007 provides clues to the future of plants.

Cold symmetric and cryptic
Researchers aim a barrage of sensors at nature's most enduring hieroglyphs.

Stormy vineyards
New methods help Argentinian farmers brace for bad weather.

Storm Census
Two meteorologists pioneered a new application of a single passive microwave frequency using DAAC data in 1995.

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.

ECOSTRESS: NASA's Next-Generation Mission to Measure Evapotranspiration from the International Space Station

TRMM and GPM Precipitation Products and Services at NASAs GES DISC

Making SAR Data Accessible- New Sensors, Tools and Services

NetCD-what? An Ecologist’s Guide to Working with Daymet and other NetCDF-formatted Data

Operation IceBridge Come Discover a Decade of Polar Data

Access and Visualization of Model Data at the NASA GES DISC

Create Difference Maps for NASA Data with Giovanni, Panoply, and Excel

Don't Pass the Salt! NASA's Salinity Mission Continues with SMAP

Rapid Assessment of Hazard Impacts - NASA SEDAC Hazard Mapper

See all webinars and tutorials.

Data User Profiles

Meet some of the scientists using Earthdata for freshwater research and applications around the world.

David Mocko, using land-surface models to study drought.

Bridget Seegers, developing new ways to study water quality and track harmful algal blooms.

Dr. Christian Kummerow, studying the water budget.

John Lehrter, studying the water quality of estuarine and coastal environments.

Ben Holt, studying polar sea ice, coastal oceanography, and marine pollution.

Dr. Anne Nolin, studying mountain ecosystems.

Dr. Joan Ramage, studying glaciers and snowmelt.

Dr. Gina Henderson, studying the connections between tropical and Arctic weather and climate.

Dr. Mark Anderson, studying the way frozen surfaces react to changing atmospheric conditions.

See all data user profiles.

Last Updated: Jun 13, 2019 at 2:14 PM EDT