Small NASA satellite launched from New Zealand to predict climate change – World

Small NASA satellite launched from New Zealand to predict climate change – World

WASHINGTON: A small NASA satellite was launched Saturday from New Zealand with a mission to improve climate change prediction by measuring heat escaping from the Earth’s poles for the first time.

“This new information – and we’ve never had it before – will improve our ability to model what’s happening at the poles, what’s happening in the climate,” said NASA Earth Sciences Research Director Karen St. Germain. , in a recent press conference.

The shoebox-sized satellite was launched by an Electron rocket, built by a company called Rocket Lab, which took off from Mahia, northern New Zealand. The overall mission is called PREFIRE.

The company will later launch its own similar satellite.

PREFIRE mission to measure the heat that the poles release into space

They will be used to carry out infrared measurements high above the Arctic and Antarctic to directly measure the heat that the poles release into space. “This is critical because it actually helps balance the excess heat that is received in the tropical regions and really regulates the Earth’s temperature,” said Tristan L’Ecuyer, a mission researcher affiliated with the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“And the process of bringing heat from tropical regions to polar regions is actually what drives our entire climate around the planet,” he added.

With PREFIRE, NASA aims to understand how clouds, humidity or the melting of ice into water affect this heat loss from the poles.

Until now, the models that climate change scientists used to measure heat loss were based on theory rather than actual observations, L’Ecuyer said.

“Hopefully, we can improve our ability to simulate what sea level rise will look like in the future and also how polar climate change will affect weather systems around the planet,” he added.

Small satellites like this were a low-cost way to answer very specific scientific questions, St. Germain said.

Larger satellites can be considered “generalists” and smaller ones “specialists,” he said. “NASA needs both,” she added.

Published in Dawn, May 26, 2024