Have you ever wondered how NASA Earth observing satellites are able to ground truth their data? What about satellites that collect data over the ocean? Is it ever possible to compare actual in situ data with data that is collected using remote sensing? It just so happens that there are several NASA scientists who will be doing just that- and more- from January 24th through February 20th! And, those of us who are involved in the GLOBE Program have been specially invited to participate in several aspects of this research.
We are going to hear from Dr. Ivona Cetinic, the lead scientist, during our next ENSO webinar on Jan. 17th! You can register to participate in this webinar by clicking this link.
We are invited to two Google Hangouts related to this research effort as well! There is a Google hangout for middle and high school students that will be hosted live on Feb. 1st from 2 to 2:45 pm (ET). We will get to take a tour of the ship and learn more about the research and the equipment that is being used to collect the data. Then there will be a special Google hangout for GLOBE teachers and scientists on Feb 15 at 7pm (ET). During this event, we will learn about the results of the research from several scientists who were onboard the research vessel, and will have a chance to ask questions about this work and results.
You can learn all about this research cruise and see some resources that have already been added to the page, as well as see meet the team who will be onboard, at this link.
Although this research isn’t primarily focused on the changes that occur during El Nino and La Nina events, the data that is collected will certainly assist scientists in learning more about the plankton species that they find. Hawaii, where they are starting, is on the edge of an area that has very low nutrients. Low nutrient areas are typically dominated by small phytoplankton such as synechoccus and prochloropcoccus. During a La Nina winter, conditions are likely to promote more mixing of nutrients from below that would support larger phytoplankton species (I.e. Diatoms). This is important for the carbon cycle as larger plankton contribute to the ocean’s biology pump and may sink out of the surface layer (exporting carbon to great depths) while small plankton tend to be recycled in the surface layer. The researchers will have many instruments on board to detect particle sizes and which species they’re finding as well as which particles are sinking. As they approach the west coast of the US, they will find other species. They will be able to compare these measurements to those collected by others during El Nino conditions. So while this expedition is not designed specifically to study ENSO, going out in a slight La Nina season will likely have an impact that will be interesting to observe.
Here’s a great modeling study that shows how ocean circulation controls dominant phytoplankton species: click here.
So, do plan to engage your students in this real world example of how NASA scientists are currently conducting research that will assist them in a great many ways, including allowing them to validate satellite data.