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By Dr. Erika Podest,
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
From the UN conference on climate change, Durban, South Africa
The highlight of my day was being part of a panel discussion on “Viewing the Earth’s Climate from Space”, a NASA-sponsored event that provided an overview of space-based studies of the Earth’s climate system. The talks emphasized not only a global perspective, but the perspective from Africa as well. The panel was comprised of scientists Dr. Jack Kaye from NASA headquarters, Dr. Jeff Privette from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Dr. Yann Kerr from France’s Centre d’Etudes Spatiales de la BIOsphère, and me from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Our presentations covered a wide variety of science ‘products’ derived from satellite datasets that tell us about Earth’s climate. Jack Kaye gave a broad overview of NASA’s current abilities to study and monitor different aspects of Earth from space. I focused on the components of the water cycle that we can see from space, such as rainfall, snow, groundwater and soil moisture, and the way in which they affect vegetation growth, drought and floods. I also talked about the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission, ...