National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Wallops Flight Facility


+ NOPP, ISOOS, and the NASA/GSFC Coastal Research Initiative

The central thrust of the NASA/GSFC Coastal Research Initiative is thus the continuation and extension of an active engagement in oceanographic research activities, including in situ, airborne, satellite technologies and measurements, and development of ocean-atmosphere-land modeling capabilities. The thrust is focused on supporting NASA’s remote sensing science needs (Cal/Val, algorithm development, remote sensor development and testing, etc) and on supporting the development of a regional node of the federal ocean observing system that is outline in ISOOS (2002).

+ Ocean Primary Productivity Group

With respect to ocean biology, remote sensing technology has largely focused on quantifying near-surface phytoplankton chlorophyll concentrations. To address the issues described above, these measurements of chlorophyll standing stocks must be interpreted in terms of rates of primary production or growth, as well as in terms of phytoplankton abundance (i.e., number or carbon biomass). Conversion of chlorophyll concentration into phytoplankton photosynthesis or carbon biomass is a challenging scientific problem that is a focus of the OPPG. Our approach to this problem has been through parallel field, laboratory, and modeling efforts.

+ AeroScience Lab

The 614 AeroScience Lab (ASL) is developing integrated airborne instrumentation and platform systems to augment current measurement capabilities with small, uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAVs) for both remote sensing and in-situ measurements. The ultimate scientific aim of this work is to provide tools for micro-scale atmospheric research, including measurements of temperature, water vapor, three-dimensional winds, turbulence, cloud properties, and precipitation.

+ Rain-Sea Interaction Program

Our goal is to improve measurements of air-sea gas exchange, rain, and wind over the open oceans and coastal regions. Measurement of these processes contributes to improved weather prediction; climate modeling and air-water CO2 flux estimates. We investigate (a) rain generated air-sea interaction processes and (b) microwave scattering from rain-roughened water surfaces. Our approach is to develop physical models that are supported by data, and to incorporate these results into algorithms so that the findings can be broadly tested and applied.

+ Advanced Coastal Laser Biomonitoring

An advanced pump-and-probe (P&P) airborne laser technology has been recently developed at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The P&P system provides remote measurement of important phytoplankton photosynthetic variables, such as the functional absorption cross-section of photosystem II (PSII), PSII photochemical efficiency, PSII turnover time, the rate parameters of singlet-singlet and singlet-triplet annihilations, and carotenoid triplet lifetime along with pigment and organic matter fluorescence, down-welling and upwelling hyperspectral measurements and IR surface temperature.

+ Coastal Storms and Regional Precipitation

NASA has a goal of understanding global precipitation. This is needed to understand the energy balance of the earth and the hydrological cycle. Satellites designed to meet these global goals also measure local precipitation. And measuring and understanding the effects of local storms and regional precipitation are critical to develop the policies that will protect coastal populations and property.

+ Ocean Color Development and Validation

The Airborne Oceanographic Lidar (AOL) is an advanced laser fluorosensor that is flown along with up-looking and down-looking spectroradiometers and an infrared radiometer that measures sea surface temperature.

+ Coastline Topographic Mapping/Shoreline Elevation Change

Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) has been involved in the development of airborne laser altimetry since its very beginnings in the mid 1970’s. However, it was not until the availability of the DoD’s Global Positioning System (GPS) in the late 1980’s that airborne laser altimetry became practical for applications such as coastal surveying. The primary application of the ATM since the early 1990’s has been to monitor the mass balance of Arctic ice sheets and glaciers in response to regional climate changes in the Northern Hemisphere. The ATM Project has demonstrated the ability to collect 10 cm quality elevation measurements in the pursuit of this program.

+ Website

+ Surface Wave and Air-Sea Interactions Laboratory

The primary objectives of the facility is to test theoretical results and to collect empirical data for the development of remote sensing techniques, in support of microwave remote sensor development and algorithms for air-sea interaction studies.

+ Website

+ Coastal Ocean Observation, Simulation and Analysis

The primary focus of the OOSA group is to develop a Regional Earth Modeling System (REMS) in order to be able to make assessments of the potential effects to changes in the climate and nutrient forcing regimes within which the coastal areas exist. The development path that OOSA follows is Observations Analysis Simulation Validation Prediction. The long-term goals are to develop an operational capability for coastal ecosystem health and sustainability

+ Coastal Phytoplankton Taxonomy and Physiology Program

The occurrence of harmful algal blooms (HABs) is increasing in frequency and severity in many US coastal environments worldwide. HABs contain high densities of unicellular algae, which can cause mass mortalities of marine organisms and disrupt ecosystem links and dynamics. The algae can also cause a variety of illnesses. The incidence of these blooms may be a marker for changes in the global environment due to the result of human activities (e.g. high nutrient input into coastal waters) or cyclical changes in global climate. In addition to risks to human health and environmental impact, significant economic losses occur due to closure of aquaculture businesses, fisheries, and tourism.

+ Coastal Air-Sea Interaction Studies

This work involves applying ocean surface and subsurface satellite remote sensing to study the exchange of energy and/or mass between the air and sea. One of NASA’s roles in these studies is the development of measurement techniques that ultimately serve to help answer questions about short or long-term climate conditions and their variation.

+ Scanning Radar Altimeter Coastal Studies

The SRA can measure the energetic portion of the directional wave spectrum, which endangers ships and damages coastal structures, and its evolution as the waves cross the shoaling waters on the continental shelf. The SRA can also measure storm surge, which can inundate a community during a hurricane. The measured variation of backscattered power with incidence angle determines the sea surface mean squared slope (mss), due to small-scale waves which respond rapidly to the wind, and rain rate below the aircraft.

+ The Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar

The EAARL (Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar) is a new airborne lidar that provides unprecedented capabilities to survey coral reefs, nearshore benthic habitats, coastal vegetation, and sandy beaches. The EAARL sensor suite includes a raster-scanning-water penetrating full-waveform adaptive lidar, a down-looking color digital camera, an array of precision kinematic GPS receivers which provide for sub-meter geo-referencing of each laser and hyper spectral sample. It will soon also include a hyperspectral scanner.