Earth from space

How can the same radar technology used by law enforcement officials to enforce speed limits be used in space to monitor Earth's climate? Find out at two free, public lectures at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Thursday, Jan. 24, and Pasadena City College on Friday, Jan. 25.

The lectures, entitled "The Winds and Beyond: The Radar Scatterometer as a Global Climate Monitoring Device," will be presented by Dr. Michael Spencer, a senior radar systems engineer at JPL. He will discuss the increasingly important role radar technology and Earth-sensing radars, known as scatterometers, are playing in monitoring Earth's climate. Such instruments are able to penetrate clouds and "see" phenomena that are unobservable to conventional satellite-based cameras.

In recent years, JPL-developed scatterometer instruments such as the SeaWinds instrument on NASA's Quick Scatterometer satellite have measured and mapped global wind speed and direction. These data have proven useful in improving the forecast of extreme wind events, such as hurricanes, as well as monitoring longer-term climatic effects, such as El Nino. In addition to winds, researchers have found that scatterometer measurements are a sensitive indicator of other environmental processes. These new applications for scatterometry include monitoring of the polar ice sheet, detecting deforestation in the Amazon and predicting destructive flooding events.

Spencer joined JPL's radar science and engineering group in 1990 and has been involved in the design, testing and operation of several successful space radar missions. He is currently developing concepts for future Earth-observing sensors. Spencer earned a bachelor of science degree in physics from The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va.; master of science degrees in planetary science from The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles; and a doctorate in electrical engineering from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Both lectures begin at 7 p.m. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The lecture will be webcast live and will also be available after the event on the JPL Web site. The lecture at JPL, located at 4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena, off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) Freeway, will be held in the von Karman Auditorium. The Friday lecture will be held in Pasadena City College's Forum at 1570 E. Colorado Blvd.

For more information, call (818) 354-0112. Information on the von Karman lecture and webcast is available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures/jan02.html . JPL is a division of Caltech.


News Media Contact

JPL/Alan Buis (818) 354-0474