T-46: How NASA Observes Earth’s Atmosphere

Better and faster computers have improved how we model and study Earth. More information is the other piece of the puzzle.

Since 1980, the tenth anniversary of Earth Day, the number of observing systems, which includes satellites, weather balloons, and even instruments flown on commercial airlines, has dramatically increased—from 175,000 observations gathered over a six-hour period in 1980 to around 5 million observations in 2018.

NASA logo with the blue circle replaced with EarthThe Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center uses the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) modeling and data assimilation system to produce estimates of Earth’s atmospheric state by combining short-term forecasts with observations from numerous observing systems. The GEOS modeling system helps us see Earth more clearly and better understand our atmosphere and how it changes.