Earth: A System of Systems (updated)

  • Released Friday, May 8th, 2020
  • Updated Wednesday, February 28th, 2024 at 12:40AM
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In order to study the Earth as a whole system and understand how it is changing, NASA develops and supports a large number of Earth-observing missions. These missions provide Earth science researchers the necessary data to address key questions about global climate change.

This visualization reveals that the Earth system, like the human body, comprises diverse components that interact in complex ways. Shown first, the Multi-Scale Ultra-High Resolution (MUR) sea surface temperature (SST) dataset combines data from the Advanced Very High-Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Terra and Aqua, and Advanced Microwave Spectroradiometer-EOS (AMSR-E) instruments. Constantly released into the Earth’s atmosphere, heat and moisture from the ocean and land influence Earth’s weather patterns—represented here as wind speeds from the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) dataset. Moisture in the atmosphere—represented as water vapor (also from MERRA)—forms clouds (shown here using cloud layer data from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center) and precipitation. Precipitation (data from GPM IMERG) significantly impacts water availability, which influences soil moisture (data from NASA-USDA-FA) and ocean salinity.

While scientists learn a great deal from studying each of these components individually, improved observational and computational capabilities increasingly allow them to study the interactions between these interrelated geophysical and biological parameters, leading to unprecedented insight into how the Earth system works—and how it might change in the future.



Credits

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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center


Datasets used in this visualization

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