Latest News and Updates

July 13, 2020
Screenshot of the NASA Disasters  mapping portal
Members of the NASA Disasters Program at the 2019 Esri User Conference. Credit: NASA The week of July 13, 2020, NASA’s Earth Applied Sciences Program is participating in the all-virtual Esri User Conference. Esri is the organization responsible for ArcGIS, a software that helps researchers map complex components of Earth’s systems. With learning opportunities like technical workshops and lightning talks, the event will connect NASA scientists to communities of potential users of NASA resources, to highlight how Earth observations and research products can be used to inform efforts to advance and protect human and ecological health. The NASA Disasters Mapping Portal can help connect emergency response managers quickly access satellite data related to natural events like floods, cyclones and fires. Credits: NASA


July 7, 2020
This animation shows NASA IMERG rain rates (blue shading) and accumulations (green shading) near Kyushu island, in the southwest of Japan from June 29 - July 5, 2020.
This animation shows NASA IMERG rain rates (blue shading) and accumulations (green shading) near Kyushu island, in the southwest of Japan from June 29 - July 5, 2020. Devastating floods and landslides swept through parts of Kyushu on July 4, 2020, resulting in over 40 deaths and orders for hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their homes according to media reports. Download video (right-click -> Save As) The rains that triggered the flooding occurred in the context of the Meiyu-Baiu rainy season, which arrives in east Asia every year from June to mid-July. “Meiyu” and “Baiu” are the Chinese and Japanese words for “plum rains”, so called because the rains usually arrive around the time that plum trees ripen. The east-west rain bands that can be seen in the animation are characteristic of the Meiyu-Baiu season. Climate scientists have determined that these rain bands are forced by a combination of warm air from the Tibetan Plateau that travels along a jet of air running eastward, as well as moist tropical air from the southwest. While the Meiyu-Baiu rains had been active in southern Japan in the days leading up to the recent flooding, the period beginning with July 3, 2020 saw particularly intense periodic rain pulses with rates exceeding 25 mm/hr (1 inch/hr) in the areas around Kyushu. Accumulations increased rapidly from July 3—July 5, to over 40 cm (~16 inches) over the entire southern half of the island, with some areas reaching as high as 60 cm (~2 feet). NASA's IMERG algorithm combines data from an international constellation of satellites to show precipitation measurements both over the ocean and over land.


June 25, 2020
Several images of forest fires.
Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and wildfires are formidable natural phenomena that require rapid but strategic responses to prevent significant losses to life as well as property. Earth satellite data can enable responders to identify the location, cause and severity of impacts, including property damage. However, these natural disasters often impact large areas, and the manual process of searching through extensive imagery to pinpoint the location of and assess the amount of damage is slow and labor-intensive. Trained analysts who examine the images have to integrate their knowledge about an area’s geography, as well as the specific disaster’s conditions to score building damage. How can this process be sped up to bring accurate information to disaster responders more quickly? NASA Earth Applied Sciences’ Open Innovation and Disasters program area joined the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), part of the Department of Defense, to address just this problem, and they invited the expertise of one key group – the public! DIU’s xView2 Challenge invited image analysts and computer vision experts to participate in an open, international prize competition to create machine learning algorithms that could process pre- and post-natural disaster imagery to assess building damage.


June 29, 2020
Screenshot of the GFED product in the NASA Disasters Mapping portal
Near real-time fire emissions products from the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED) have recently been added to the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal, making it easier to for disaster researchers and responders to track aerosols and changes in greenhouse gases and air quality from fires around the world. This application from the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal animates the past week of GFED near real-time data. Carbon emissions are shown by default, but you can click the “layers” icon in the upper right to toggle the display of other emissions such as methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Credit: NASA View on the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal The dataset tracks six different emissions, which are carbon (C), methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), dry matter (DM) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Data are presented in gigagrams (Gg) at 0.25° (~28km) resolution. Emissions data are updated daily and are available from January 2019 to present. Fire emissions estimates from the GFED near real-time product are based on active fire detections from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instruments aboard the Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 satellites. The historical relationship between VIIRS active fire detections and GFED emissions from 2012 – 2016 are used to create a statistical model which can convert active fire detections to biomass burned in near real-time. Long-term GFED emissions estimates are calculated using satellite burned area data and a carbon cycle model that cannot be produced in real-time. However active fire detections, including estimates of fire radiative power, are available within hours of the satellite overpass.


June 24, 2020
Pyrocumulus clouds forming from the bushfires in Australia as seen by the JMA Himawari-8 satellite. Credit: Satellite data from JMA Himawari 8 processed by NOAA, CIRA
The Washington Post contacted NASA researcher and NASA Disasters Program Center Coordinator Jean-Paul Vernier for his insights into a paper on the 2020 Australia fires, published in Geophysical Research Letters. The article is titled "Australia’s Fires Blew Smoke 19 Miles into the Sky, Similar to a Predicted Nuclear Blast" and was published June 22, 2020. Read the full article here:  See more Disasters Program stories on the 2020 Australia fires:


June 23, 2020
Satellite image of a hurricane
The powerful hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900, killing an estimated 8,000 people and destroying more than 3,600 buildings, took the coastal city by surprise.  This video looks at advances in hurricane forecasting in the 120 years since, with a focus on the contributions from weather satellites. This satellite technology has allowed us to track hurricanes – their location, movement and intensity.  Video of Eyes in the Sky “One of the dramatic impacts is that satellite data keeps an eye on the target," especially over unpopulated areas such as oceans, said JPSS Director Greg Mandt. “We’re sort of like your eyes in the sky to make sure that Mother Nature can never surprise you.” 


June 16, 2020
NASA’s Terra satellite provided a visible image to forecasters of Tropical Storm Nuri as it approached the southeastern coast of China on Saturday, June 13. Credit: NASA Worldview
NASA’s Terra satellite provided a visible image to forecasters of Tropical Storm Nuri as it approached the southeastern coast of China on Saturday, June 13. Credit: NASA Worldview NASA’s Terra satellite provided a visible image to forecasters of Tropical Storm Nuri as it approached the southeastern coast of China during the day on Saturday, June 13. At that time, Strong wind signal #3 was in force for Hong Kong. At 5 a.m. EDT (0900 UTC), Tropical storm Nuri was located near latitude 18.7 north and longitude 115.2 east, 166 miles south-southeast of Hong Kong. Nuri was moving to the west-northwest and had maximum sustained winds of 35 knots (40 mph/65 kph). Nuri was moving northwest and did not strengthen further before making landfall.


June 15, 2020
Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-East (GOES-East) imagery shows Hurricane Dorian making landfall on September 1, 2019. Image courtesy of NASA Worldview.
Scientists at NASA’s Short-Term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) project use near real-time data to help the operational weather community with hurricane forecasting. As the sun came up on September 1, 2019, the eye of Hurricane Dorian was fast approaching the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. The Category 5 hurricane hit the islands at 12:40 p.m. local time with maximum sustained winds of 298 kilometers per hour (185 miles per hour). Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-East (GOES-East) imagery shows Hurricane Dorian making landfall on September 1, 2019. Image courtesy of NASA Worldview. The movement of the storm was captured by the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-East (GOES-East) Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). GOES-East and GOES-West are joint NASA/NOAA geostationary satellites that provide data on storm evolution by measuring infrared and visible radiation. The GOES imagery is available in 10 minute increments and made available through NASA’s Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS) and Worldview interactive data visualization application approximately 40 minutes after it is captured by the satellite.


June 6, 2020
GPM IMERG estimated rainfall totals from Tropical Storms Amanda and Cristobal from May 27th - June 5th, 2020. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is off to a busy start. By the first week of June, Tropical Storm Arthur had already brushed North Carolina, Tropical Storm Bertha had drenched South Carolina, and the third named storm of the year— Cristobal—was dropping torrential rain on the Yucatán Peninsula. The storm first developed in the Pacific in late May as Tropical Storm Amanda, spinning off the southern end of a seasonal low-pressure pattern called the Central American Gyre. After making landfall in Guatemala and causing deadly floods in El Salvador, Amanda weakened and became less organized as it crossed Central America. It then reorganized and began to intensify as it reached the Atlantic Ocean and encountered the north end of the gyre. While lingering over the Yucatán Peninsula for several days, the storm dropped tremendous amounts of rain on parts of Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala.


June 1, 2020
GPM overpass of Hurricane Dorian
Tropical cyclones, known as hurricanes in the western hemisphere, can bring damaging high winds, storm surge, and flooding rainfall to the coastal communities they hit.  Satellite instruments - and the detailed near real-time atmospheric data that they provide - have revolutionized the way we see hurricanes and other disasters as they happen. But it’s about more than just seeing. NASA, working with counterparts at NOAA, FEMA, and elsewhere are sharing ever more precise data to aid local communities in coping with disasters. With better information, emergency responders have the tools to make informed decisions at critical moments.  As we prepare for the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season on June 1st, take a look at 2019’s Hurricane Dorian and how NASA and partner satellites tracked the storm and its impacts to aid response and recovery efforts in the Bahamas.  Studying past hurricanes like Dorian can help us better prepare for the hurricanes of the future.  Click here for the storymap