Climate Research What the Experts

Climate research is a rapidly expanding field. The advent of more sophisticated technologies such as satellite monitoring systems and high-speed computers has enabled scientists to increase the efficiency of field research, collect and process more data, and be able to put meaning to large amounts of technical data that cross technical and professional boundaries from one science specialty to another, such as paleoclimatology, oceanography, meteorology, physics, chemistry, geography, geology, and a host of other physical sciences. This chapter presents some of the most recent technological research being carried out in the field at present.

One of the most challenging aspects of acquiring a detailed understanding of the world's oceans and how they interact not only with land and the atmosphere but with each other is the lack of data over the vast expanses of ocean. Being able to obtain water samples and take salinity and temperature measurements in a systematic way across the entire planet has not been feasible technically, economically, and logistically, making it extremely challenging to create a robust database over time. With the advent of satellite technology, however, it finally became technically and logistically feasible to begin collecting reliable global sea-surface temperatures. Another advantage of satellite technology is that it is possible to remove the atmospheric effects of clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere from the data, maintaining the data's integrity. Satellites can provide sea surface temperatures that are accurate to within 0.8°F (0.5°C). Data on wind speed and direction is also collected. Data collection from satellites allows scientists to understand better the interactions between the oceans and atmosphere. Satellite data obtained by NASA is acquired from the Terra spacecraft and the QuikSCAT (a microwave radar). Through these instruments, NASA is better able to understand the processes of ocean circulation. In addition to these instruments, scientists also use other satellites, such as Landsat 7. Data from these satellites allows scientists to build and test general circulation models, as well as model the ocean's physical, biological, and chemical inputs toward global climate change.

Several areas of ongoing research today are lending clues to global warming and the response of Earth to these changes. Like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, each additional piece of information that scientists collect enables them to refine the bigger picture of global warming.

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