Working with its customer counterparts and academia, USRA carries out observational, experimental, and theoretical research in support of strategic Earth science missions.
One of the most pressing scientific concerns today is to understand Earth's atmosphere and how human activity might affect the habitability of the planet. USRA researchers seek to discover how climate is changing as greenhouse gases increase, and how these changes will impact other aspects of the Earth system; the spatial extent and dynamics of the ozone layer and the Antarctic ozone hole; how anthropogenic activities contribute to atmospheric pollution on regional and global scales; the impact of long-range transport of pollutants on local air quality; and how climate change will impact local air quality.
Data assimilation is a critical capability for weather forecasting and short-term climate research, both for specifying the optimal initial state for forecasting and to establish an accurate and consistent data record for climate simulations and diagnostic studies. In collaboration with NASA, USRA researchers are working to develop a better and more efficient data assimilation system by moving to a 4D-Var approach and improving the GEOS-5 model.
Carbon cycle and ecosystem research measures and models elements of the terrestrial and marine systems and their links with the atmosphere. Projects includes marine phytoplankton measurement and monitoring, atmospheric CO2 transport models with links to terrestrial and oceanic sources and sinks, and atmospheric circulation models with links to surface properties. USRA's research is focused on gaining a better understanding of the carbon cycle, improving remotely sensed data collection to meet critical needs, enhancing ecosystem modeling, and developing innovative measurement and modeling techniques.
USRA works with recognized experts from government and academia to analyze and understand climate data such as sea ice variation, sea level change, aerosols, vegetation, and ozone. Climate change research includes Earth system modeling, data analysis, and data assimilation techniques.