Laboratory for Atmospheres 2003 Technical Highlights: Section 3 Our Research and its Place in NASA's

NASA's overall program, as outlined in the Agency's strategic plan of 2003, is composed of six enterprises: Aerospace Technology, Biological and Physical Research, Earth Science, Education, Space Flight, and Space Science. The Laboratory for Atmospheres makes a significant contribution to Earth Science and Space Science, and is active in Education activities. NASA is undergoing reorganization because of the President’s Exploration Initiative announced in January 2004. Our Laboratory is in tune with this reorganization and expects to make a significant contribution to this initiative.

3.1 Earth Science and Space Science in the Laboratory for Atmospheres

The Laboratory for Atmospheres has a long history (40+ years) of research in atmospheric science, both of the Earth and the planets. The wide array of our work reflects this history of atmospheric research, from the early days of weather satellites and emphasis on weather forecasting, to a present focus on global climate change. For example, one goal is to increase the accuracy and lead-time with which we can predict weather and climate change. Our history also reflects research from the early days of the Orbiting Geophysical Observatory (OGO), the Explorer missions, and Pioneer Venus Orbiter to the recent Galileo mission, and current studies of the outer planets and comets with the Cassini mission.

The Laboratory for Atmospheres conducts basic and applied research in the cross-disciplinary research areas of the Earth Sciences Directorate. Specifically, Laboratory scientists focus their efforts on satellite mission planning, data development and analysis, data assimilation, and modeling in the areas shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Earth Sciences Directorate Themes and our Major Research Areas

Earth Sciences Directorate Science Themes

Major Research Areas in Code 910


Atmospheric Chemistry

Carbon Cycle

Climate Change

Global Water and Energy Cycle

Weather and Short-term

Climate Forecasting

Geodynamics & Solid Earth

Planetary Studies


Atmospheric Chemistry & ozone

Atmospheric Hydrologic Cycle

Carbon Cycle

Clouds and Radiation

Climate Variability and Prediction

Mesoscale Processes

Precipitation Systems

Planetary Studies

Severe Weather

Chemistry-Climate Modeling

Global and Regional Climate Modeling

Data Assimilation


Our work involves four primary activities or products: measurements, data sets, data analysis, and modeling. Table 2 depicts these activities and some of the topics they address.

Table 2: Laboratory for Atmospheres Earth Science Activities


Data Sets

Data Analysis




Field campaigns



DAO assimilated products

Global precipitation

MODIS cloud and aerosol

TOMS aerosols

TOMS surface UV

TOMS total ozone

TOVS1 Pathfinder

TRMM2 Global Precipitation products

TRMM validation Products

Aerosol cloud climate interaction


Atmospheric Hydrologic cycle

Climate variability and climate change

Clouds and precipitation

Global temperature trends

Ozone and trace gases


UV-B3 measurements

Validation studies

Atmospheric chemical

Clouds and mesoscale

Coupled climate/ocean

Data assimilation

Data retrievals

General circulation

Radiative transfer

Transport models

Weather and climate


The divisions among measurements, data sets, data analysis, and modeling are somewhat artificial, in that activities in one area often affect those in another. These activities are strongly interlinked and cut across science priorities and the organizational structure of the Laboratory. The grouping corresponds to the natural processes of carrying out scientific research: ask the scientific question, identify the variable needed to answer it, conceive the best instrument to measure the variable, analyze the data, and ask the next question.

1Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS) Operational Vertical Sounder
2Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission
3Ultraviolet-B radiation