NASA's GRACE: What researchers have learned from water in motion

phys.org | 4/29/2019 | Staff
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When you hear news about ice loss from Greenland or Antarctica, an aquifer in California that is getting depleted, or a new explanation for a wobble in Earth's rotation, you might not realize that all these findings may rely on data from one single mission: the U.S.-German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). GRACE data, collected from 2002 to 2017 while the mission was active, are still being used to improve our understanding of water in motion and its sometimes surprising effects on our planet. A new paper brings together newly calculated and existing summaries of the major results GRACE has generated, showcasing the breadth of topics the mission has illuminated over the years.

"Water is an important sign of the health of the planet," said Michael Watkins, the original GRACE project scientist and now director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "But water is hard to track in some forms—for example, polar ice or water stored deep underground. We need to understand those components as well as we understand water in its more easily assessable forms around the globe. That's what GRACE has enabled us to do." Scientists have used this increased knowledge of how water moves and is stored on Earth to understand global climate and how it is changing.

Byron - Tapley - GRACE - Investigator - Motivating

Byron Tapley, GRACE's original principal investigator and the motivating force behind the mission (now retired from the University of Texas at Austin), is the lead author of the new paper. Titled "Contributions of GRACE to Understanding Climate Change" and published in the journal Nature Climate Change, it summarizes the latest results and new insights GRACE has enabled up to the present. The review, which covers aspects of the GRACE measurement technique, scientific breakthroughs and the relevance for climate service applications, was written by a distinguished team of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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