David E. Steitz

Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1730)


In a keynote address to weather forecasters at their annual
convention, NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin yesterday outlined
the space agency’s role in studying Earth’s climate — a
commitment to scientific research and technology development that
will help forecasters make more accurate weather predictions in
the new millennium.

Speaking to the American Meteorological Society convention in
Long Beach, CA, Goldin discussed how NASA technology and climate
studies can help predict such dramatic events as El Nino and La
Nina — providing advance notice that saved America billions of
dollars last year alone. For the future, NASA has set goals for
its Earth Sciences research and technology development projects
that may result in new satellite technologies and models to help
National Weather Service replace the common three- to five-day
forecasts of today with accurate 10- to 14-day forecasts, Goldin

With the use of satellite data and better computer modeling
techniques, meteorologists in the next ten years may be able to
predict El Nino weather conditions up to 15 months in advance and
detect hurricanes far enough ahead to help protect lives and
property, Goldin told the meteorologists.

“What most people don’t know is that our efforts to open the
space frontier are largely based on our quest to understand our
own planet,” Goldin said. “Our development of new technologies
and Earth-observing spacecraft complement the vital work of our
sister agencies in weather prediction and global climate

Ongoing Earth Science missions that contribute to our
understanding of the global climate include:

* Landsat 7, an Earth-mapping satellite that provides imagery
of the planet for use in understanding natural events all over the
world. Building on a 27-year heritage of data, Landsat 7 can help
researchers understand the effects of hurricanes and their
flooding of coastal regions, as well as monitor natural fires and
droughts all over our planet.

* Quikscat, a satellite launched last spring that tracks wind
currents over the ocean’s surface. This information can help
scientists understand the interactions between Earth’s oceans and
the atmosphere and help them predict the evolution and movement of
severe storms.

* TOPEX/POSEIDON, a NASA-French mission that uses radar to
study ocean-surface topography and heat content, two more clues
into how El Nino and other ocean events affect the weather that
crosses our nation each day.

* The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, a NASA-Japanese
mission that continues to provide profound new insights into
events such as hurricanes, modeling them in three dimensions while
showing how energy is used within the storm. This knowledge will
help experts understand how these most violent of Earthbound
storms work. Experimental forecasts done last fall using this
satellite’s data demonstrated much better tracking of some of the
year’s devastating east coast hurricanes, including Dennis and

* The ACRIMSAT mission, launched last month, will measure how
changes in the Sun’s energy affect Earth’s climate.

* Terra, also launched just last month, will enable new
research into the ways that Earth’s lands, oceans, air, ice and
life function as a planet-wide system. In the coming months and
years, this major “Earth Observatory” will provide new insights
into how our home planet behaves.

NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, Washington, DC, is a long-
term research program designed to study the Earth’s land, oceans,
air, ice and life as a total system. More information about
NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise can be found on the Internet at: