Organization: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Research Title: NASA Scatterometer (NSCAT)

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 17.6
FY95 15.4
FY96 10.1

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%)
(b) Environmental Issue: Natural variability (50%) Global Change: exploratory research with broad focus not primarily in another category (50%)
(c) Research Activity: System structure and function: Observation (100%),

Organizational Component:
NASA Headquarters, Code YS
Washington, DC 20546

Point of Contact:
Miriam Baltuck
Phone: 202-358-0244

Research Goals:
Wind stress is the single largest source of momentum to the upper ocean and winds drive ocean motions on scales ranging from surface waves to basin-wide current systems. Winds over the ocean also modulate air-sea fluxes of heat, moisture, and particulates, thus regulating the critical coupling between the atmosphere and ocean that establishes and maintains global and regional climate. Finally, measurements of surface wind velocity can be assimilated into regional and global numerical weather models, thereby extending and improving our ability to predict future weather patterns on many scales. NASCAT will provide the first comprehensive ocean measurements of vector winds needed to address these important issues.

Research Description:
NSCAT is designed to acquire high resolution, continuous, all weather measurements of near surface vector winds over the ice-free global oceans. As the only instrument capable of acquiring measurements of wind velocity both speed and direction NSCAT data are critical for studies of tropospheric dynamics and air-sea momentum fluxes. NSCAT will measure vector winds over 79% of the global oceans each day with virtually complete coverage in every 2 day period. The wind velocity data from NSCAT will be used for calculating all air-sea fluxes, for modeling upper ocean circulation, for understanding tropospheric dynamics, and for improving global weather predications.

Program Interfaces:
The Physical Oceanography Program of the Physical Climate Branch is an integral part of Mission to Planet Earth program which is addressing climate change issues through a coordinated effort with other federal agencies in the US. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and internationally through bilateral and multilateral agreements with the space agencies of other countries and agencies such as the U.N. World meteorological Organization, World Climate Research program (WCRP). Specifically, this mission is part of the NASA contribution to the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) and the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere (TOGA) programs.

Program Milestones:
Selection of science team 1985. Launch is scheduled with other related payloads in August 1996 on Japanese H-2 ELV.

Policy Payoffs:
This instrument will provide measurements of momentum fluxes that drive the ocean circulation. Since the oceans are a critical element in the climate system, this will lead to a better understanding of the processes that control climate change. In addition, data from this instrument will be used to enhance the skill of real-time weather forecasting and provide important information such as the intensity and location of severe weather disturbances, such as hurricanes.