After the magnitude 8.8 Chilean earthquake on Feb. 27, a team led by Y. Tony Song of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used real-time data from the agency’s Global Differential GPS (GDGPS) network to successfully predict the size of the resulting tsunami. The network, managed by JPL, combines global and regional real-time data from hundreds of GPS sites and estimates their positions every second. It can detect ground motions as small as a few centimeters.

“This successful test demonstrates that coastal GPS systems can effectively be used to predict the size of tsunamis,” said Song. “This could allow responsible agencies to issue better warnings that can save lives and reduce false alarms that can unnecessarily disturb the lives of coastal residents.”12

U.S. Navy Use of NASA MODIS Aerosol Observations

Aerosol optical depth data from NASA’s MODIS satellite are being operationally assimilated into the numerical model of the US Navy’s Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC), improving model performance two days out.13

NASA, Japan Release Most Complete Topographic Map of Earth

NASA and Japan released a new digital topographic map of Earth that covers more of our planet than ever before. The map was produced with detailed measurements from NASA’s Terra spacecraft.

The new global digital elevation model of Earth was created from nearly 1.3 million individual stereo-pair images collected by the Japanese Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, or Aster, instrument aboard Terra. NASA and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, known as METI, developed the data set. It is available online to users everywhere at no cost.

The Digital Elevation Model from the joint Japanese ASTER instrument aboard NASA’s Terra spacecraft was made publicly available through NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (operated for NASA by USGS), which within a few months had distributed data to over 30,000 users (and with so much short-term demand that the data center computers crashed within 24 hours of [the] release).14

NASA Data Reveal Major Groundwater Loss in California

Data from NASA’s GRACE satellite mission have documented the seasonal and interannual variability of total water storage in the Sacramento and San Joaquin drainage basins, including how agricultural use is affecting water storage.15

NASA Improving Short-Term Weather Prediction by the National Weather Service

NASA satellite data are [being] routinely used by operational weather forecasters in the Southern region of the US National Weather Service through the Short-Term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) [center] in Huntsville, AL.

“It’s not just a matter of them throwing random data sets over the fence to us and hoping we might be able to use them,” says Chris Darden from the National Weather Service (NWS). “They work with us to figure out precisely what we need. Then they put that data into a format we can read, actually integrating it with our radar displays. And they train us to understand and interpret the information they give us.”16





16NASA Science News, April 22, 2009, available at

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