Setting the Stage for PACE at AGU

A row of posters is pictured in a cavernous conference center hall. To the left of the image is a poster showing maps of the world with data presented in a rainbow of colors. Two men stand next to the poster, talking. In the background of the pictures, others talk and gesture to posters.

After years of planning, building, and testing, 2024 is the PACE mission’s time to shine: Launch is slated for February and the team is eagerly awaiting a wealth of ocean- and atmosphere-related data to dig into soon after.

Several PACE scientists closed out 2023 by sharing this enthusiasm for the mission at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting December 11-15 in San Francisco, which drew more than 24,000 Earth and space scientists.

“This is such a profound quantum leap forward in terms of our ability to monitor our home planet,” Jeremy Werdell, PACE project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told a group gathered in front of NASA’s hyperwall screens.

A man wearing glasses, a dark polo shirt, khakis and a nametag on a lanyard stands in front of a large display made of nine screens combined into one. On the screen is a visual showing PACE study areas, labelled on a schematic of the ocean, atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems.
PACE project scientist Jeremy Werdell outlines diverse areas of study that data from the mission could help answer questions for, at the NASA exhibit booth at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco, Dec. 12, 2023. Image credit: NASA/Kate Ramsayer

He showed a visualization highlighting Earth’s pulsing phytoplankton blooms, masses of aerosols drifting across oceans, ice sheets retreating, and more. It’s 20 years of our home planet breathing, Werdell said. Insights like these about Earth are one of NASA’s key accomplishments, he said, right up there with landing on the Moon.

In the conference’s poster hall, researchers presented their work to get ready for using the data. Amir Ibrahim, an ocean scientist with NASA Goddard, talked to colleagues about a tool he is using to simulate the data that the team will receive once PACE’s Ocean Color Instrument is up and running in orbit.

“We’re here to interact with the community who will use the data, and share with them the great capabilities OCI will offer across various disciplines,” Ibrahim said, standing in front of a poster filled with data visualizations and charts.

Data from PACE will touch on many aspects of the interconnected Earth system, including air quality and water quality, Natasha Sadoff, PACE applications deputy coordinator, told the audience at a presentation later that day. With aerosol products from the mission, people can help improve health advisories for wildfire smoke. Other data products will help notify resource managers of harmful algal blooms, wetland health indicators, or even oil spills and seeps.

A woman in a light-colored blazer stands behind a podium on a dais, giving a presentation. On the right side of the image, a screen shows a colorful visualization of Earth, with concentrations of different types of phytoplankton in the oceans represented with different colors. In the foreground of the image are the backs of attendees’ heads.
Natasha Sadoff, PACE applications deputy coordinator, speaks before a crowd of Earth and space scientists at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco, on Dec. 11, 2023. Image credit: NASA/Kate Ramsayer

She showed a global map of the locations of mission Early Adopters, people who are working with the mission ahead of launch to figure out how to use the satellite data to help address different questions across a wide range of disciplines. PACE will generate a new world of data, Sadoff said, and the mission welcomes others interested in exploring it.

“We’re always looking for new community members,” she said.

Header image caption: At a December 2023 conference, scientists presented findings about what the PACE mission and its instruments could accomplish after launch, scheduled for Feb. 6, 2023. Image credit: NASA/Kate Ramsayer

By Kate Ramsayer, Strategic Communications Lead for Earth Science Missions at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center