Tropical Cyclone Information System Updated to Include New Satellite Data Sets

Technology Development

The Tropical Cyclone Information System (TCIS) is a tool that fuses hurricane models and observations within a web-based system to improve forecasting capabilities. TCIS provides scientists with the capability to overlay user-selected observational data on top of a variety of user-selected model predictions, and to perform online analysis of models and observations. TCIS required development of processing techniques to enable multi-source data fusion across hurricane forecast models, satellite data, and in situ sensors. The TCIS team also developed tools to manage the validation and assessment of model comparisons to more easily evaluate the performance of different numerical models. These online, interactive visualization techniques are ideal for analyzing highly complex systems like hurricanes.


By bringing together near real-time data and a 12-year global data archive within a visualization portal, TCIS is enabling research about hurricane processes, helping to validate and improve models, and assisting in algorithm and data assimilation techniques.

This screen capture from the TCIS tool shows some of the enhancements to interactive region selection, model and data acquisition, statistical comparison, and visualization. Status and Future Plans

In 2016, the TCIS team unveiled an updated portal that presents ocean vector winds from two scatterometer missions: NASA's Rapid Scatterometer on the International Space Station (ISSRapidScat) and the European Advanced SCATterometer (ASCAT). The updated system has been adopted by the RapidScat project for their analysis work. The TCIS team is also using the system to review wind and precipitation fields to investigate whether the rapid intensification seen during 2016’s Hurricane Matthew was predictable, based on satellite observations alone. In a previous study conducted in late 2015, products from TCIS were presented to personnel at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center and the Hurricane Research Division (HRD) for use in analyzing Hurricane Joaquin. The output from a TCIS online analysis tool, developed in collaboration with HRD, suggested the potential for rapid intensification several hours before it happened.

Sponsoring Organization

The Earth Science Division sponsors development of TCIS via the AIST program. The PI is Svetla Hristova-Veleva at NASA JPL.

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20 Years of Global Biosphere

By monitoring the color of reflected light via satellite, scientists can determine how successfully plant life is growing.

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Visualization of the 2017 Hurricane Season

This visualization follows sea salt, dust, and smoke from July 31 to November 1, 2017 to reveal how these particles are transported across the map.

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Taking a Spin on Plasma Space Tornadoes with NASA Observations

Portal origin URL: Taking a Spin on Plasma Space Tornadoes with NASA ObservationsPortal origin nid: 413533Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 - 11:06Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: New NASA mission results show that tornado-like swirls of space plasma create tumultuous boundaries in the near-Earth environment, letting dangerous high-energy particles slip into near Earth space.Portal image: animation of mixing plasma of different densitiesScience Categories: Sun

Our Living Planet

Life. It's the one thing that, so far, makes Earth unique among the thousands of other planets we've discovered. Since the fall of 1997, NASA satellites have continuously and globally observed all plant life at the surface of the land and ocean. This week, NASA is sharing stories and videos about how this view of life from space is furthering knowledge of our home planet and the search for life on other worlds.

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NASA Detects Solar Flare Pulses at Sun and Earth

Portal origin URL: NASA Detects Solar Flare Pulses at Sun and EarthPortal origin nid: 413448Published: Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 14:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: Two recent studies show how solar flares exhibit pulses or oscillations in the amount of energy being sent out. Such research provides new insights on the origins of these massive solar flares and the space weather they produce. This is key information as humans and robotic missions venture out into the solar system, farther and farther from Earth.Portal image: SDO observations of 2011 X-class flareScience Categories: Sun

NASA Expands Podcast Selections with New Science Series

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Gravity Assist Podcast, The Sun with Nicky Fox

We start our “Gravity Assist” virtual tour of the solar system with – where else – the Sun!  How hot is the Sun, what are solar flares, and how does space weather affect us here in Earth? Jim is joined by Project Scientist Dr. Nicky Fox of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab to talk about our fascinating star and NASA’s upcoming Parker Solar Probe—a mission to “touch the Sun.” 

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The Changing Colors of our Living Planet

Life. It's the one thing that, so far, makes Earth unique among the thousands of other planets we've discovered. Since the fall of 1997, NASA satellites have continuously and globally observed all plant life at the surface of the land and ocean. During the week of Nov. 13-17, NASA is sharing stories and videos about how this view of life from space is furthering knowledge of our home planet and the search for life on other worlds.

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FIREBIRD II and NASA Mission Locate Whistling Space Electrons’ Origins

Portal origin URL: FIREBIRD II and NASA Mission Locate Whistling Space Electrons’ OriginsPortal origin nid: 413291Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 10:32Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: New research using data from NASA's Van Allen Probes mission and FIREBIRD II CubeSat has shown that plasma waves in space are likely responsible for accelerating high-energy particles into Earth's atmosphere.Portal image: illustration of Earth's Van Allen BeltsScience Categories: Sun

New NASA Mission Concept Aimed at Studying Why Planets Lose their Atmospheres

Portal origin URL: New NASA Mission Concept Aimed at Studying Why Planets Lose their AtmospheresPortal origin nid: 413250Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 - 10:46Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: A team of NASA scientists want to use Earth as a laboratory to understand how planets lose their atmospheres and has proposed a mission that the agency recently selected as one of five for further consideration as a possible NASA Explorer mission.Portal image: This artist’s rendition shows MEME-X’s dual spacecraft as they observe the aurora from an altitude like that of the ISS.Science Categories: Sun

Proposed NASA Mission Would Investigate Where Space Weather Begins

Portal origin URL: Proposed NASA Mission Would Investigate Where Space Weather BeginsPortal origin nid: 413249Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 - 10:38Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: A NASA team is advancing a mission to reveal unprecedented details about solar flares, powerful eruptions that explode with enough energy that each one could power all of Earth for 16,000 years.Portal image: Deputy Principal Investigator Albert Shih (left) and Principal Investigator Steven Christe Science Categories: Sun

NASA, We Need Your Help

Earth observations are aiding the mission to end river blindness

When a former president of the United States asked for assistance in eliminating a debilitating disease from the Americas, it was a challenge we decided to take on.

Scourge of Millions

"My daughters must cook my meals, clean the house, and help me dress."

That is how river blindness changed Pitasia Gonzales of rural Mexico. She acquired the disease many years ago and it not only took her sight, it also stole her independence.

River blindness, or onchocerciasis, is an affliction caused by a parasitic worm that’s transmitted person-to-person by the bites of Simulium sp. black flies. It gets its more common name due to the fly’s breeding grounds along fast-flowing rivers and streams, as well as the disease’s tendency to cause vision loss for its sufferers, among other debilitating symptoms.

Since its inception, The Carter Center’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas has had one goal—ending the disease in North and South America. The program works with six afflicted nations in the Americas administering safe and effective ivermectin tablets (Mectizan®, donated by Merck) in afflicted communities. Through determined work by the ministries of health of these countries, the transmission of river blindness has ended in Gonzales’ native Mexico, as well as in Colombia, Ecuador, and Guatemala.

As of 2015, the threat from river blindness in the Americas remained only in the dense rainforest area along the Venezuela and Brazil border, where the native Yanomami people live.

The Letter

President Jimmy Carter made his mission for 2015 clear: “By the end of this year, all river blindness-affected Yanomami communities need to be identified so we can begin to provide villages with medicine and health education.”

Then came the letter. Addressed to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, it was a request from President Carter to help Venezuela locate any remaining unidentified villages in the deep Amazon rainforest. President Carter had personally visited the Yanomami before and knew how difficult it was to find these villages. And NASA, with its ‘eyes in the sky’ imagery, was ready to help provide the new information to locate villages that were not yet registered by the health system.

Still, it wouldn’t be easy, and making the task more difficult was the fact that the Yanomami migrate frequently due to shifting land suitability and food supplies. They also tend to remain close to rivers—prime habitat for the black fly.

“Thanks to NASA’s work, we are able to feel more confident that the country is truly tracking down any possible last vestiges of river blindness in this exciting elimination effort.” Frank Richards, The Carter Center

Probable Yanomami village locations determined by a DEVELOP suitability model Scanning the Amazon

NASA’s Applied Science DEVELOP program, with its flexibility and expertise, took on this project. Using Earth observations from Landsat and ASTER, along with data provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, three DEVELOP teams collaborated on a project to help The Carter Center with its mission.

The result was an interactive map with latitude/longitude coordinates, associated imagery, and approximate populations (based on hut roof areas) for all potential Yanomami villages that were identified. For areas where there were questionable settlements, the team created a suitability model that identified areas where the Yanomami would likely inhabit.

The End in Sight

In total, the project team found evidence of more than 160 potential villages, generally identifiable by their shabono, which are open, oval huts constructed in rainforest clearings. Many of these were anticipated to overlap with the known 460 endemic Yanomami communities; however, the assumption was that some would be new to the system. The team presented its information and methods, which included an interactive map in Google Earth, to The Carter Center in August 2015.

The following month, The Center shared this new information with the Venezuelan river blindness health workers, who later determined that 16 of the villages discovered were previously unknown to them. Subsequent fly-overs of four of those villages in 2015 confirmed that they were inhabited. One was visited on foot, and determined to be non-endemic for river-blindness. Venezuela intends to visit all the newly discovered villages in 2016.

“We are thrilled with the results of this project. And even for the villages that are ultimately found not to be endemic for river blindness, the country will now be able to offer other needed health services where they were previously unavailable,” said Frank Richards, director of The Carter Center River Blindness Elimination Program.

As this mission continues, The Carter Center is driven to give the Yanomami what it gave to Pitasia Gonzales—hope for the future. After her grandchildren received preventative treatment from The Center, Gonzales was optimistic. "Their generation has the opportunity to preserve its vision."

Michael Ruiz leads our DEVELOP program.

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Observations of a Comet’s First Passage Through the Solar System Reveal Unexpected Secrets

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NASA Sets Media Coverage of Rescheduled NOAA Weather Satellite Launch

Portal origin URL: NASA Sets Media Coverage of Rescheduled NOAA Weather Satellite LaunchPortal origin nid: 412984Published: Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - 17:56Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: The Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) satellite, the first in a new series of four highly advanced National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) polar-orbiting satellites, now is scheduled to launch on Tuesday, Nov. 14, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.Portal image: JPSS-1Science Categories: Earth

Parker Solar Probe Comes to NASA Goddard for Testing

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Powering Saturn's Active Ocean Moon

Heat from friction could power hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus for billions of years if the moon has a highly porous core, according to a new modeling study by European and U.S. researchers working on NASA's Cassini mission.

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Electronics Demonstrate Operability in Simulated Venus Conditions

Technology Development 

NASA’s future planetary exploration efforts, including missions to Venus, require electronics capable of surviving temperatures of 470° C and above for long durations. Such durable electronics eliminate the need for cooling systems to enable sustained operations. Previous operation of electronics at Venus surface conditions (e.g., in Venus missions) has been limited to a few hours in a protected pressure/temperature enclosure, due to the extreme environment. Standard electronics used commercially and for planetary exploration are based on silicon semiconductors, which do not operate at Venus temperatures. A team at NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) has been working to develop hightemperature electronics based on silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors that can operate at Venus temperatures and above. Recently, the team demonstrated that a variety of the world’s first moderately complex SiC-based microcircuits (tens or more of transistors) could withstand up to 4000 hours of operation at 500° C. These demonstrations included core circuits such as digital logic circuits and analog operational amplifiers that are used throughout electronic systems.

Top: GEER replicates Venus simulated surface conditions, including temperature, pressure, and chemical composition. Bottom: High temperature ring oscillator continues stable operation in these “Venus conditions” for 521 hours.

Testing of two these circuits occurred in the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig (GEER), which simulates Venus surface conditions including high temperature and pressure. In April 2016, the team demonstrated a SiC high-temperature 12-transistor ring oscillator at Venus surface conditions (460° C, 93 atm pressure, supercritical CO² and trace gases) in the GEER for 21.7 days (521 hours) with good stability throughout the entire test. This Venus surface demonstration of moderately complex electronics is a significant world record—orders of magnitude in duration beyond any other Venus surface condition electronics demonstration. Testing in Venus conditions was ended after 21 days for scheduling reasons; similar ring oscillator circuits have shown thousands of hours of operations at 500° C in Earth-air ambient oven conditions.

SiC high-temperature electronics before and after testing in Venus surface conditions (rugged operation for extended durations). (Credits: top: Marvin Smith, NASA GRC; Bottom: David Spry, NASA GRC) Impact 

These advances are a paradigm shift that broadly enables new science exploration, especially for the Venus surface. SMD began a project in FY17—the Long-Life In-situ Solar System Explorer (LLISSE)—that will incorporate these new SiC electronics. LLISSE is developing a functioning prototype of a low-cost scientific probe capable of providing basic, but highvalue, science measurements from the surface of Venus continuously for months or longer. Such a probe was not viable previously, and will revolutionize our understanding of the Venus surface. This new technology also impacts potential development of probes exploring the Gas Giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) or the surface of Mercury. SiCbased electronics could also enable an intelligent aeronautics engine to monitor and respond to its own health state, and could be used in a range of commercial applications, such as deep oil well drilling or industrial processing.

Status and Future Plans 

In August 2016, the team completed fabrication of “next-generation” extreme temperature integrated circuit wafers featuring significantly more complex digital and analog circuits (more than 100 transistors). In October, the team initiated prolonged 500° C testing (Earth-air atmosphere) of “next-generation” integrated circuits with more than 100 transistors. Plans include producing increasingly complex high temperature SiC electronics to meet the needs of the LLISSE project and other applications. NASA will use a “design and build” approach to increase the capabilities of the basic electronics components, while providing new circuit types as needed for specific applications.

Sponsoring Organization

Multiple projects have supported this technology development in 2016. PSD’s PICASSO program sponsored work to develop a range of SiC core circuits for multiple applications and missions. SMD’s LLISSE Project worked to refine high-temperature SiC circuits for use on a Venus surface lander. Additionally, the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Transformative Tool and Technologies Project supported development of high-temperature electronics for aeronautic engine applications.

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