Latest News and Updates

February 19, 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
Researchers from the NASA Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program are using data from multiple satellites to study the formation of fire-induced clouds from the Australian bushfires, known as pyrocumulus clouds, and their potential impacts to Earth’s atmosphere and climate.  Data from the NASA-NOAA OMPS (above) and ESA TROPOMI instruments (below) show aerosols and carbon monoxide from the Australia fires spreading across the Tasman Sea. Credit: NASA On February 2nd, 2020 the Ozone Monitoring Profiler Suite (OMPS) onboard the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar Orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite observed a 3000 km-long smoke plume extending from the Australian East Coast to New Zealand across the Tasman Sea. The visualizations above show the so called "Aerosol Index" from OMPS (top image), which indicates the presence of aerosols such as soot, and would be seen as black and brown clouds through human eyes. These aerosols absorb solar radiation, which contributes to the warming of the atmosphere and has potential long-term implications for Earth’s climate.


February 18, 2020
Sandra Cauffman giving her keynote speech at the Understanding Risk Central America Forum. Credit: NASA
Sandra Cauffman, director (acting) of NASA's Earth Sciences Division opened the Understanding Risk Central America Forum with a keynote address on the strength of partnerships and building community resilience in Central America. The event was attended by more than 500 people and notable attendees included the President of Costa Rica - Carlos Alvarado, the General Secretary of SICA - Marco Vinicio, and the Director for World Bank Central America, Seynabou Sahko.


February 14, 2020
Attendees of the NASA / PDC floods and landslides monitoring and modeling workshop. Credit: NASA
Members of the Pacific Disaster Center and NASA’s Disasters Program met recently to advance their collaboration on global flood and landslide risk modeling and monitoring. Meeting at the Pacific Disaster Center headquarters in Kihei, Hawaii from February 11th to 14th, this workshop increased awareness of the technical and science opportunities and capabilities of each of the participating groups with a robust exchange of information and ideas. The workshop identified synergies between projects and PDC partner activities and identified next steps to collaborate scientifically and in support of disaster response activities. Discussion focused on advancing how the Pacific Disaster Center can integrate NASA flood and landslide models and maps into the DisasterAWARE™ application, a global early warning and decision support system to translate data into actionable information to improve situational awareness, disaster response and recovery of at-risk communities.


February 11, 2020
The model shows landslide risk for High Mountain Asia increasing in the summer months in the years 2061-2100, thanks to increasingly frequent and intense rainfall events. Summer monsoon rains can destabilize steep mountainsides, triggering landslides. Cre
      More frequent and intense rainfall events due to climate change could cause more landslides in the High Mountain Asia region of China, Tibet and Nepal, according to the first quantitative study of the link between precipitation and landslides in the region.  The model shows landslide risk for High Mountain Asia increasing in the summer months in the years 2061-2100, thanks to increasingly frequent and intense rainfall events. Summer monsoon rains can destabilize steep mountainsides, triggering landslides. Credits: NASA's Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens High Mountain Asia stores more fresh water in its snow and glaciers than any place on Earth outside the poles, and more than a billion people rely on it for drinking and irrigation. The study team used satellite estimates and modeled precipitation data to project how changing rainfall patterns in the region might affect landslide frequency. The study team found that warming temperatures will cause more intense rainfall in some areas, and this could lead to increased landslide activity in the border region of China and Nepal.


February 7, 2020
NASA Earth Science Directory (Acting) Sandra Cauffman. Credit: NASA
Versión en español Director (Acting) of the NASA Earth Science Mission Directorate Sandra Cauffman will be the key speaker at the upcoming “Understanding Risk Central America” conference taking place February 12th  - 14th,  2020 in San José, Costa Rica. She will be speaking on NASA’s role in supporting disaster risk reduction and response in Central America.   NASA Earth Science Director (Acting) Sandra Cauffman. Credit: NASA Understanding Risk (UR) is an open and global community of individuals and institutions that work on the creation, communication and use of disaster risk information. The community organizes global and regional conferences to highlight best practices, facilitates public-private partnerships and shares the latest technical knowledge in disaster risk identification. NASA has signed a joint declaration with the countries of the Central American Integration (SICA) to collaborate in disaster risk reduction and related areas. NASA Earth observation data represent a strategic value for decision-making in disaster risk reduction and resilience for one of the world's most vulnerable regions to natural disasters. NASA will have a booth at the Understanding Risk event and representatives will be attending from the NASA Disasters Program and SERVIR.


February 5, 2020
Members of the NASA Disasters Program at the Esri user conference. Credit: NASA Disasters Program
Join more than 5,000 attendees from across government agencies at the Esri Federal GIS Conference in Washington, DC on February 11 - 12, 2020. Hear how government agencies are using GIS to power deeper understanding for effective solutions. Learn more: Members of the NASA Disasters Program at the Esri user conference. Credit: NASA Disasters Program Members of the NASA Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program will be attending to teach people about the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal how NASA is connecting GIS to science and applying geospatial technology to better understand our changing planet. NASA Events NASA Special Interest Group Meeting  Wednesday February 12th, 12:30 – 1:30pm, Room 154B This meeting is for NASA staff and collaborating partners to discuss and share information on NASA projects supported by GIS. NASA Disasters Program Mapping Portal Overview Wednesday February 12th, 1:30 – 2:30pm, Room 154B Learn how the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal bridges the gap between NASA scientists and end-users. The Portal hosts NASA near real-time image services and event specific products for users involved in disaster risk management and day-to-day planning and operations.


February 3, 2020
Carbon monoide levels measured by the Aura MLS instrument from July 2019 - January 2020. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 
Carbon monoxide levels measured by the Aura MLS instrument from July 2019 - January 2020. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory  Bushfires have raged in Victoria and New South Wales since November 2019, yielding startling satellite images of smoke plumes streaming from southeastern Australia on a near daily basis. The images got even more eye-popping in January 2020 when unusually hot weather and strong winds supercharged the fires. Narrow streams of smoke widened into a thick gray and tan pall that filled the skies on January 4, 2020. Several pyrocumulus clouds rose from the smoke, and the towering clouds functioned like elevators, lifting huge quantities of gas and particles well over 10 kilometers (6 miles) above the surface—high enough to put smoke into the stratosphere.


January 29, 2020
Aura MLS carbon monoxide measurements from multiple altitudes on January 23rd, 2020, show the CO plume off the southern tip of South America at between 68 hPa (~19km) and 32 hPa (~23km), indicating that the plume is at least 4km thick. Credit: NASA Disast
NASA researchers are using data from the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) instrument onboard the Aura satellite to track atmospheric carbon monoxide (CO) levels from the fires in Australia. Carbon monoxide is one the main trace gases emitted from fires and can be used to help track the path of smoke plumes. Carbon monoxide can also be used to track smoke which is injected directly to high altitudes from explosive fires.   This animation of Aura Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) data shows carbon monoxide (CO) levels around Australia from December 25th, 2019 to January 20th, 2020. The color scale visualizes CO concentrations from 0 to 300 parts per billion (ppb), although much higher concentrations were measured briefly in some regions. Credit: NASA Disasters Program, Robert Field using data from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The above animation shows carbon monoxide (CO) levels in the region from December 25th, 2019 to January 20th, 2020. These concentrations were measured at an atmospheric pressure of 215 hectopascals (hPa), which is roughly 11km in altitude over southern Australia. Atmospheric pressures through the depth of the atmosphere, as measured in hPA’s, are used in meteorology as units of altitude.


January 28, 2020
The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and California Institute of Technology created this Damage Proxy Map (DPM) depicting areas that are likely damaged as a result of the November 26, 2019 earthquakes in Albania. The map was derived from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). The images were taken before (November 14, 2019 and November 20, 2019) and after (November 26, 2019) the sequence of earthquakes. Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data, processed by ESA. Analyzed by the NASA-JPL/Caltech ARIA team. This task was carried out at JPL funded by NASA.  During a recent U.S. State Department “Observations and Communications Roundtable” meeting, NASA Disasters Program personnel briefed a delegation of several Italian disaster preparedness and response agencies on the work in which the program is engaged. One of the Italian delegation subsequently reached out to Disasters with a specific request for information on damage to structures in the epicentral region of an Albanian earthquake which occurred on Tuesday, November 26th, 2019. Disaster-affiliated researchers from the Advanced Rapid Images and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were able to provide a damage proxy map that was then released to Italian officials. 


January 27, 2020
An alternate angle of the Aqua MODIS overpass, showing areas where pyrocumulonimbus storms were detected. Credit: NASA Disasters Program, Jean-Paul Vernier (NIA / NASA LaRC)
In December 2019 and January 2020 Australia has experienced widespread and severe fires causing extensive damage to the local ecosystem and communities and blanketing the surrounding regions in smoke. By studying data from multiple Earth-observing satellites and different types of sensors, NASA researchers can get a more comprehensive understanding of the extent of the fires and their impact to the surrounding communities. Photograph of smoke rising from fires on the east coast of Australia, taken by ISS astronauts on January 4th, 2020. Credit: NASA Crew Earth Observations (CEO) On January, 4th 2020, astronauts flying 17,500 miles per hour onboard the International Space Station (ISS), captured several photographs of smoke plumes from fires in New South Wales and Victoria, spreading off the east coast of Australia into the Tasman Sea. On the ground, uncontrolled fires were exacerbated by extremely dangerous wind conditions and temperatures reaching record highs of 45⁰ Celsius (113⁰F). Reporters in Mallacoota, Victoria witnessed smoke so thick that they described it as being “like midnight at 3.30 in the afternoon.”