From cities to deserts, the intense heat gripping California is being closely monitored by an Earth-observing mission aboard the International Space Station.
As record temperatures and large wildfires scorch
California, NASA’s Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space
Station (ECOSTRESS) has been tracking the heat wave from low Earth orbit. While ECOSTRESS’s primary
mission is to measure the temperature of plants heating up as they run out of
water, it can also measure and track heat-related phenomena like heat waves,
wildfires, and volcanoes.
3:56 p.m. PDT (6:56 p.m. EDT) on Aug. 14, as the space station passed over Los
Angeles, ECOSTRESS was able to take a snapshot of the soaring land surface temperatures
across the county, home to more than 10 million people. (Land surface
temperature is the temperature of the ground rather than the air above it.) In
the first image, ECOSTRESS measured a temperature range of about 70-125 degrees
Fahrenheit (21-52 degrees Celsius), with the coolest being at the coasts and
mountains. The highest surface temperatures, in dark red, were found northwest
of downtown Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. (The instrument also
captured the Ranch fire, seen in the center of the image, as it burned.) Land surface
temperatures there reached over 125 degrees Fahrenheit (52 degrees Celsius),
with a peak of 128.3 degrees Fahrenheit (53.5 degrees Celsius) between the
cities of Van Nuys and Encino.
afternoon peaks were within range of morning surface temperatures ECOSTRESS
gauged two days later in Death Valley, part of California’s Mojave Desert. As
shown in the second image, from Aug. 16 at 8:50 a.m. PDT (11:50 a.m. EDT), ECOSTRESS
recorded a maximum temperature of 122.52 degrees Fahrenheit (50.29 degrees
Celsius) near Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park.
observations have a spatial resolution of
about 77 by 77 yards (70 by 70 meters), which enables researchers to study
surface-temperature conditions down to the size of a football field. Due to the space station’s
unique orbit, the mission can acquire images of the same regions at different
times of day, as opposed to crossing over each area at the same time of day
like satellites in other orbits do. This is advantageous when monitoring plant
stress in the same area throughout the day, for example.
ECOSTRESS mission launched to the space station on June 29, 2018. NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and
manages the mission for the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission
Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. ECOSTRESS is an Earth Venture
Instrument mission; the program is managed by NASA’s Earth System Science
Pathfinder program at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
information about ECOSTRESS is available here:
information on Earth science activities aboard the International Space Station,
News Media Contact
Ian J. O’Neill / Jane J. Lee
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
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Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory