Latest News and Updates

January 9, 2020
Satellite data from the OMPS-NM instrument is used to create an ultraviolet aerosol index to track the aerosols and smoke. Credits: NASA/Colin Seftor
Satellite data from the OMPS-NM instrument is used to create an ultraviolet aerosol index to track the aerosols and smoke. Credits: NASA/Colin Seftor A fleet of NASA satellites working together has been analyzing the aerosols and smoke from the massive fires burning in Australia. The fires in Australia are not just causing devastation locally. The unprecedented conditions that include searing heat combined with historic dryness, have led to the formation of an unusually large number of pyrocumulonimbus (pyrCbs) events. PyroCbs are essentially fire-induced thunderstorms. They are triggered by the uplift of ash, smoke, and burning material via super-heated updrafts. As these materials cool, clouds are formed that behave like traditional thunderstorms but without the accompanying precipitation. PyroCb events provide a pathway for smoke to reach the stratosphere more than 10 miles (16 km) in altitude. Once in the stratosphere, the smoke can travel thousands of miles from its source, affecting atmospheric conditions globally. The effects of those events -- whether the smoke provides a net atmospheric cooling or warming, what happens to underlying clouds, etc.) -- is currently the subject of intense study. NASA is tracking the movement of smoke from the Australian fires lofted, via pyroCbs events, more than 9.3 miles (15 kilometers) high. The smoke is having a dramatic impact on New Zealand, causing severe air quality issues across the county and visibly darkening mountaintop snow.


January 9, 2020
NASA’s Terra satellite captured this view of the region, showing a complex array of dust storms, enhanced thanks to the rich spectral information of MODIS.
In part supported by NASA’s Disasters Program, the system known as LANCE — short for Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (Earth Observing System) — collates satellite data to deliver imagery of intense disturbances across the globe: usually less than three hours after initial observations. As it enters its second decade of operation, LANCE provides subscribers free and open access to more than 130 near real-time data products and imagery from 12 satellite instruments.


December 31, 2019
Category 5 Hurricane Irma as observed by the GOES-16 satellite on September 5th, 2017, and processed by SPoRT.
The NASA Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center (SPoRT) was established in 2002 to transition NASA satellite data and capabilities to improve short-term weather forecasting with an emphasis on National Weather Service (NWS) end users. With the goal of maximizing the benefit of NASA research and capabilities to benefit society, SPoRT has developed innovative solutions to bring research products to operations and tailor them to meet end user needs. Over the past decade SPoRT has been at the forefront of a range of activities, making notable contributions to NASA LIS and WRF Hydro, the GOES-R/JPSS Proving Grounds, and the GPM, SMAP, and SWOT Early Adopter Programs. With an initial focus on partners in the southeastern U.S., SPoRT has expanded partnerships to include end users in all NWS Regions, National Centers, and other government agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, U.S.D.A., and state environmental agencies.


December 23, 2019
Emergency responders during the May 2017 flooding near Pocahontas, Arkansas. Credit: U.S. Army National Guard/Spc. Stephen M. Wright
Arkansas lives up to its nickname of The Natural State, with three national forests covering 2.9 million acres, seven national parks, scenic mountains and plains, and dozens of rivers bordering and crossing the state, including the mighty Mississippi. But with all those rivers, flooding is a recurring natural hazard. For those providing relief and other emergency services to flooded areas, timely NASA Earth observations help determine the scope of the disaster.


November 25, 2019
The 2011 floodwaters show up as dark blue spreading across the historic city of Ayutthata, Thailand, just north of Bangkok. The 2011 floods killed hundreds of people and displaced millions. Credits: Credit: LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA’s G
In the first NASA study to calculate the value of using satellite data in disaster scenarios, researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, calculated the time that could have been saved if ambulance drivers and other emergency responders had near-real-time information about flooded roads, using the 2011 Southeast Asian floods as a case study. Ready access to this information could have saved an average of nine minutes per emergency response and potential millions of dollars, they said. The study is a first step in developing a model to deploy in future disasters, according to the researchers. The Mekong River crosses more than 2,000 miles in Southeast Asia, passing through parts of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, China and other countries. The river is a vital source of food and income for the roughly 60 million people who live near it, but it is also one of the most flood-prone regions in the world. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center


November 19, 2019
Refugee camps built in the Bangladeshi hillside are vulnerable to sudden landslides. Credits: UN Development Programme/Eno Jonathan
Refugee camps built in the Bangladeshi hillside are vulnerable to sudden landslides. Credits: UN Development Programme/Eno Jonathan Camp managers and other local officials overseeing Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are now incorporating NASA satellite observations into their decision making in order to reduce the risk to refugees from landslides and other natural hazards. Information like daily rain totals can help inform how  to lay out refugee camps and store supplies. More than 740,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017. Many of them have sought shelter in camps located in the hilly countryside, where landslide risk may be the greatest. Increasing this danger is Bangladesh’s intense monsoon season. Approximately 80 percent of Bangladesh's yearly rain falls in just five months, from June to October, bringing with it an increased risk of flash flooding and landslides. When these refugee camps were built in the southeastern part of the country, plants and trees were removed and their roots no longer helped to hold the soil in place. The soaked hillsides are at even greater risk of cleaving off with heavy rains. In July 2019, after 14 inches of rain fell in 72 hours, 26 landslides in Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, killed one person and left more than 4,500 without shelter. “We have little information on landslides," said Hafizol Islam, who is in charge of one of the most densely populated camps of the Kutupalong mega-camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. "It is unpredictable for us and can happen at any time.”


November 1, 2019
Landslide researcher and Disasters Program Center Coordinator Dalia Kirschbaum gives a presentation on the NASA Hyperwall at AGU 2016.
Members of the NASA Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program will be attending the American Geophysical Union 2019 Fall Meeting this year in San Francisco, CA to give talks, present posters, and teach people about the program and the services it provides.


November 1, 2019
Landslide-susceptible settlements in the Kutupalong refugee camp in South Bangladesh. Credit NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
This is the first in a series of articles profiling NASA’s role in contributing to the Sendai Framework, a United Nations initiative to help communities worldwide manage, mitigate and plan responses to a wide array of disasters. The Sendai Framework was adopted by U.N. member states on March 18, 2015 during a conference on disaster risk reduction in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.


October 23, 2019
The attendees of NASA’s 2019 Disaster Risk Reduction Workshop in Rio.
Groups are meeting in Rio de Janeiro this week to discuss the progress made in the landslide modeling work and kick off a new project focused on urban flood modeling. The “Applied Sciences for Disaster Risk Reduction Workshop” and other outreach and scientific engagement events will feature technical discussions with city management and scientists to connect the scientific modeling efforts to decision making needs around the city.


October 21, 2019
Animation depicting the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) Fire Temperature product overlaid on the GeoColor product.  The red area is the Saddleridge fire and the white plume blowing out over the Pacific Ocean is smoke. Credit: Kyle Hilburn
This animation depicts the the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) Fire Temperature product overlaid on the NOAA GOES-R GeoColor product for the Saddleridge California region from 10:31am -12:26pm PDT on October 11th, 2019.  The red area shows the Saddleridge fire, and the white plume blowing out over the Pacific Ocean is smoke. This product was developed with support from the NASA Disasters Program at the request of the U.S. Forest Service and National Predictive Services. Satellite fire detections such as these are used to initialize fires in weather models that provide information about smoke impact and fire behavior to governments and disaster response agencies. Presently, the only fire detections used in numerical weather prediction models come from sensors on low Earth orbiting satellites, such as the MODIS and VIIRS sensors.  These sensors provide very high spatial resolution, but only provide detections a few times per day.  The Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) on the GOES-R Series provides fire detections every 5 minutes over the United States, which will provide a greater chance of capturing fires that can be missed due to cloud cover or thick smoke.