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Welcome to the National Air and Space Museum section of the Global Climate Change Virtual Exhibit Hall!

Steven Williams


Steve Williams
Education Division
National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution
The Education Division of the National Air and Space Museum is delighted to participate in the Global Climate Change Virtual Exhibit Hall. NASM has two significant points-of-contact with climate change issues: an entire exhibition gallery devoted to sensors and data related to terrestrial remote sensing, the observation of the Earth’s surface from high altitude/orbit in order to acquire climate and other data, and the use of the same remote sensing and data manipulation technology used by climate scientists to conduct research studies of other planets, primarily Mars, which also experiences climate change. Included in this section you will find details on NASM collections and research relating to climate change and/or the tools used to monitor/assess it; materials from the “WHAT Are You Looking At?” Discovery Station that is used to support NASM’s Looking at Earth gallery; and a PowerPoint talk, images, and other information all related to the use of the highest of “High Ground” perspectives in order to better understand climate, climate change, and similar issues. Enjoy your stay in the NASM Virtual Exhibit Hall!

Audio Tour: "Seeing is Believing: Monitoring Global Climate Change – from Space"

View teh Session Click for an Audio Presentation on "Monitoring Global Climate Change – from Space"
Duration: 33 minutes

Exhibitions / Artifacts Relating to Remote Sensing Technology

The Basis for Acquiring Data Germane to Global Climate Change Research

Understanding the Earth’s environment and how climate conditions are changing with time requires the collection of weather data from all over the Earth. The National Air and Space Museum is home to a variety of historical and modern examples of the satellites, cameras, and other hardware used to examine the Earth from above.

The Looking at Earth exhibition gallery at the National Air and Space Museum’s National Mall Building showcases the use of the tools and tactics that have been developed over time, up to and including those in use today, for scrutinizing the surface of the Earth from the highest of “High Ground” perspectives then attainable. Pertinent web pages include:

Web The Looking at Earth gallery page on the NASM website
Web The Looking at Earth on-line gallery
PDF

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibit Service offers a traveling poster exhibit and on-line exhibition related to the Space-based observation of Earth.

PDF

Two National Air and Space Museum books support the Looking at Earth gallery and exhibits:

Web What's New?
Terrestrial remote sensing is an evolving science, not purely historical in nature. Therefore, the Looking at Earth gallery covers new developments and breaking remote sensing news, using a series of “What’s New” screens in the Looking at Earth gallery.
Web Geography from Space
Test your geographical knowledge; check out the “Geography from Space” page.

In addition to the information and artifacts in the Looking at Earth gallery, NASM also showcases recent terrestrial remote sensing data in its “Earth Today” exhibit, located in “Beyond the Limits” gallery in the National Mall Building.



Research Utilizing Remote Sensing Technology and Climate Change on Other Planets

The Basis for Acquiring Data Germane to Global Climate Change Research

Scientists at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum routinely use the same kind of remote sensing tools and tactics used by scientists who study all aspects of Earth’s climate. Most CEPS research deals with the planet Mars, which also has undergone climate change in its past. Such studies are particularly valuable for understanding terrestrial climate and climate change, through the familiar approach of “compare and contrast.” Mars is an excellent natural laboratory for studying a climate system that is both similar to, yet fundamentally different from, that of Earth.

The URL of the website of NASM’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies is: http://www.nasm.si.edu/ceps. Information about terrestrial and other research conducted at CEPS can be found at: http://www.nasm.si.edu/research/ceps/research/res_proj.cfm#earth.

An example of the research conducted by CEPS scientists is Dr. Bruce Campbell’s work with data from the SHARAD instrument aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite presently returning data from Mars. SHARAD is a radar sounder that sends radar pulses downward and records the signals echoed from the surface, or sub-surface, since long-wavelength radar is capable of penetrating the ground to a depth of several hundreds of meters or more, depending on conditions. More than one return signal might be detected, coming from buried layers, particularly if they contain a lot of water. Of particular interest to climate change studies is the structure of the martian polar caps, whose internal layering reveals clues about Mars’ sedimentary history, which in turn provides important clues in the understanding of Mars’ climate over time.

Web The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter website
Web The SHARAD instrument website
Movie Animation: Peeling Back Layers of a Martian Polar Ice Cap
An interesting animation of how SHARAD operates can be found by scrolling down to the first video listed for 2008.

Material from the “WHAT Are You Looking At?” Discovery Station

PDF The “Big Eight” Elements of Image Interpretation
Eight fundamental parameters are used in the interpretation of remote sensing images: size, shape, tone, texture, site, association, shadow, and pattern.
PDF Concealment, Camouflage, and Deception
The elements of image interpretation are powerful tools for the successful gathering of information from afar.
PDF How Good is “Good Enough?”
“You Get What You Pay For!” and “Wow, Remote Sensing Data are Expensive!”

Remote Sensing Examples

Space-based remote sensing data are useful for assessing the damage caused by flooding events, and for understanding the environmental impact of such flooding events in both the short-term and on longer timescales.


Flooding of the Tigris

Flooding of the Tigris
Flooding of the Tigris

Click images above for larger view.

About 1,800 kilometers (1,150 miles) long, the Tigris River runs from the mountains of eastern Turkey through Iraq to the Persian Gulf. Every spring, melting snow and rain cause the river to rise and flood. These images captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite reveal the impact of this annual occurrence.

Images courtesy of MODIS Rapid Response Team/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Text and labels by Jennifer O’Brien, NASM/CEPS.


Flooding of the Chesapeake

Flooding of the Chesapeake
Flooding of the Chesapeake

Click images above for larger view.

On April 2 and 3, 2005, heavy rains drenched the eastern coast of the United States. The resulting flood waters quickly turned coastal waterways murky and brown.

These images, captured by NASA’s Terra satellite, reveal the amount of silt, mud, and debris that was dumped into the local rivers and bays.

Images courtesy of MODIS Rapid Response Team/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Text and labels by Jennifer O’Brien, NASM/CEPS.


Before and After Hurricane Katrina

Before Hurricane Katrina
After Hurricane Katrina

Click images above for larger view.

With howling winds and pounding rain, Hurricane Katrina struck the city of New Orleans on August 29, 2005. Rising water flooded some homes to the ceilings. These images show New Orleans before and after the passing of the storm.

Quickbird satellite images courtesy of Digital Globe. Text and labels by Jennifer O’Brien, NASM/CEPS.


Annual Sea Ice Minimum

[podcast format="video"]http://www.smithsonianconference.org/climate/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/SeaIce463.mov[/podcast]

Satellites have provided continuous monitoring of Arctic sea ice since 1979. Over the course of a year, the area covered by the sea ice changes. The annual maximum occurs in March and the minimum in September. The animation shows the annual minimum for each year. The second lowest occurred in 2008. The greatest loss of sea ice was in 2007.

Animation and graph courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio. Text by Jennifer O’Brien, NASM/CEPS.


2008 Ozone Hole

[podcast format="video"]http://www.smithsonianconference.org/climate/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/ozone2.mov[/podcast]

Each year from August to December, a “hole” in the Earth’s ozone layer opens up over Antarctica. This animation shows the formation and growth of the ozone hole (blue and pink) from July to late December 2008. In September, the maximum area of the hole was over 27 million square kilometers (10.5 million square miles). Compared to previous years, the 2008 hole is considered “moderately large.” The largest recorded ozone hole occurred in 2006. It covered an area 10.6 million square miles in size.

Although the use of ozone-destroying gases has been reduced, these substances persist in the atmosphere for a long time. It may take decades for the ozone layer to fully recover.

The animation was created using data collected by NASA’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) aboard the Aura satellite.

Animation courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Text by Jennifer O’Brien, NASM/CEPS.


Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas - 1984
Las Vegas - 1989
Las Vegas - 1994
Las Vegas - 1999
Las Vegas - 2004
Las Vegas - 2009

Click images above for larger view.

Taken by the Landsat 5 satellite, these images reveal the steady growth of Las Vegas from 1984 to 2009.

Images courtesy of Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, based on data from the USGS Global Visualization Viewer. Text and Labels by Jennifer O’Brien, NASM/CEPS.


Exploring Space Lecture Series

NASM 2006The 2006 Exploring Space Lectures, This Island Earth, featured four world-class scholars discussing the dramatic changes the Earth is undergoing and their work to try and explain such changes and the damage that may result, relying on the data gathered from space to better understand our small, fragile planet. Links to videos of each lecture, as well as background information sheets for the first three lectures, are available below.

Movie

Where Have All the Forests Gone?: Monitoring the Earth's Vegetation with Remote Sensing
Presented by guest speaker Dr. John Townshend, member of the Department of Geography and Institute for Advanced Computing Studies at the University of Maryland, specializing in landcover dynamics and remote sensing. Lecture took place Tuesday, March 14, 2006 at the Museum's National Mall Building in downtown Washington, DC.

PDFBackground information sheet.

Movie

Our Home in Space: The Sun-Earth System
Presented by guest speaker Dr. Judith Lean, solar physicist with the E.O. Hulburt Center for Space Research at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., and specializes in the study of the variability of solar radiation. Lecture took place Tuesday, April 11, 2006 at the Museum's National Mall Building in downtown Washington, DC.

PDFBackground information sheet.

Movie

Unraveling the Mysteries of the Earth's Changing Ice Cover
Presented by guest speaker Dr. Waleed Abdalati, head of the Cryospheric Sciences Branch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Lecture took place Tuesday, May 09, 2006 at the Museum's National Mall Building in downtown Washington, DC.

PDFBackground information sheet.

Movie Exploring Weather and Climate: A History of 'Cutting Edges' and 'Killer Apps'
Presented by guest speaker Dr. James Fleming, 2006 National Air and Space Museum Lindbergh Fellow and Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Colby College, is a historian of science and technology focusing on weather- and climate-related issues. Lecture took place Tuesday, June 06, 2006 at the Museum's National Mall Building in downtown Washington, DC.