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Earth Science Division Corner

Welcome to the Earth Science Division corner of the SARA web page. Dr. Michael Freilich, is the Director of the Earth Science Division, Dr.  Jack Kaye is the Associate Director and R&A lead, and Dr. Lucia Tsaoussi is the Associate Deputy Director.

The Earth Science Research and Analysis program enables advances in Earth System Science by supporting analysis of data from NASA satellites and aircraft, as well as those of our international partners, and documents the program’s results in the peer-reviewed literature while sharing results with the broader public. The program enables surface-based and airborne observations of the Earth system that provide both process knowledge and information that both complements and provides calibration/validation information for NASA’s satellite programs. It also develops and applies modeling approaches that can be used for quantitative testing of hypotheses for Earth system behavior and for simulating its prior, current, and future evolution informed by observations.

The Research Program Structure is as follows:

  • Competed individual investigator science:
    • Discipline-based programs are programs with solicitations tied to individual and closely-related programs within each of NASA’s six interdisciplinary science focus areas.
    • Interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary programs are programs with solicitations that cut across traditional disciplinary and/or focus area boundaries.
    • Competed science teams for NASA missions present solicitations tied to individual or closely-associated NASA satellite missions.
  • Enabling capabilities:
    • Airborne Science maintains and operates a fleet of aircraft and associated systems that support the entire Earth Science program.
    • Scientific Computing maintains and operates high end computing systems that support Earth system modeling, data assimilation, and large scale data analysis.
    • Calibration/Validation and Surface Observations and Facility Airborne Instruments provide capability that supports and complements NASA’s satellite program.

The Earth Science DivisionR&A and R&A like programs include:

  • The R&A program, encompassing several basic areas:
    • Laboratory investigations, with a focus on spectroscopy, kinetics, and photochemistry;
    • Surface-based measurement networks;
    • Airborne and balloon-based measurements, including field campaigns (also in EOS cal/val);
    • Integrated analysis of satellite data, including analysis of multiple data sets;
    • Process model development and testing; and,
    • Regional/global model development, testing, and application decisions.
  • The Applied Sciences Program, encompassing the following application areas:
    • Capacity Building, which manages three specific activities –DEVELOP, SERVIR, and Applied Remote Sensing Training (ARSET) - to improve skills and capabilities in the US and developing countries on how to access and apply NASA Earth Science.
    • Disasters, which promotes the use of Earth observations to improve prediction of, preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural and technological disasters.  
    • Ecological Forecasting, which promotes the ue of Earth observations and models to analyze and forecast changes that affect ecosystems and to develop effective resource management strategies.
    • Health and Air Quality, which encourages the use of Earth observations in air quality management and public health, particularly involving environmental health and infectious diseases.
    • Water Resources, which encourages the use of Earth observations in air quality management and public health, particularly involving environmental health and infectious diseases.
    • Wildland Fires, which promotesthe use of Earth observations and models focused on addressing issues related to windland fire in support of management strategies, business practices and policy analysis and decisions.
  • The Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO), demonstrating and providing technologies that can be reliably and confidently applied to a broad range of science measurements and missions. ESTO currently manages the following programs:

Additionally, ESTO is now pursuing mechanisms to support flight demonstrations of new technologies and capabilities that have not previously been demonstrated in space, primarily on small, ride-sharing spacecraft.  Many ESTO technologies are demonstrated onboard airplanes, UAVs (Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles) or high-altitude balloons during their course of funding. In other cases, ESTO partners with aircraft providers such as the NASA Airborne Science Program to provide further validation. Finally, ESTO serves as the Earth science lead for advanced technology development initiatives, enabling the competitive selection of the best technologies to enhance and/or enable new science measurements.


    NASA and NSF are joint sponsors of GLOBE that celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015.  GLOBE, currently in more than 115 countries, engages teachers and students in environmental observations around the world, and is expanding to include individual citizens beginning in 2016. As the lead agency, NASA administers Government-to-Government agreements, and oversees the GLOBE Implementation Office (currently with UCAR in Boulder, CO) responsible for worldwide coordination and the GLOBE data and information system managed by NASA’s GSFC.
  • New Investigator Program/Student Fellowships
    • Participate annually in the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) call, funding approximately 50 new fellows per year.
    • The New Investigator Program program is solicited every other year, and is limited to investigators with US citizenship or green card within 5 years of first professional position.
  • Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS)

    The Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) is a key core capability in NASA’s Earth Science Data Systems Program. It provides end-to-end capabilities for managing NASA’s Earth science data from various sources – satellites, aircraft, field measurements, and various other programs.

  • MEaSUREs (data)

    NASA, through its Earth Science Data Systems, supports the NASA Earth Science research community in providing Earth science data products and services driven by NASA’s Earth Science goals. Through the MEaSUREs Program, NASA is continuing its commitment to expand the understanding of the Earth system using consistent records.
  • ACCESS Projects

    The ACCESS Program supports the deployment of data and information systems and services that enable the freer movement of data and information within a distributed environment of providers and users, and the exploitation of needed tools and services to aid in measurable improvements of Earth science data access and data usability.

Earth Science Questions

NASA addresses the issues and opportunities of climate change and environmental sensitivity by answering the following key science questions through the Earth science program:

  • How is the global Earth system changing?
  • What causes these changes in the Earth system?
  • How will the Earth system change in the future?
  • How can Earth system science provide societal benefit?

Earth Science Focus Areas

The program sponsors research pertaining to six Focus Areas, including:

Example of Scientific Integration
As an example, to address the issue of global sea level change, inputs from multiple R&A programs, instrument teams, and cross-disciplinary programs will contribute to the documentation of changes in sea level, the more thorough understanding of these changes, and the prediction of their future evolution.

Contributing Program Elements:

  • R&A Disciplines
    • Physical Oceanography
    • Terrestrial Hydrology
    • Cryospheric Science
    • Space Geodesy
    • Modeling, Analysis and Prediction (MAP)
  • Instrument Teams
    • Jason (global sea level)
    • ICESat II (ice sheet thickness)
    • GRACE and GRACE Fo (ice mass, stored water)
    • ASTER (glacier extent)
    • Jason 2/3 (Ocean Surface Topography Science Team)
  • Airborne Science
    • Lidar flights for ice thickness studies
  • Interdisciplinary Science
    • Sea Level Change Science Teams


Bar graph showing Elements by Year


Bar graph showing Proposals by Year


Bar graph showing Selections by Year

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