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Top 5 Ways NASA Helps the Environment


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Climate-change Research
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on the Terra satellite documented images of fires on Borneo.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on the Terra satellite documented images of fires on Borneo.
Image courtesy of NASA

As far as eco-concerns go, global warming is the potentially catastrophic issue du jour. And like most scientific organizations today, NASA is pitching in.

One recent climate-change study uses NASA's airborne radar devices. Two new radars, which are testing devices for a space-based radar system in development, left for Iceland and Greenland in May 2009 to study the flow of glaciers and map the surface topography of the areas' ice. The findings from the two-month mission will help scientists better understand the effects of global warming and what the future holds for the world's ice masses.

Another study is using NASA's carbon-detecting satellites to measure the emissions from Asian wildfires. Drought, along with burning forests to make crop land, leaves Asia so prone to wildfires that between 1997 and 1998, emissions from these fires accounted for 40 percent of the world's carbon output [source: NASA]. NASA scientists are gathering satellite data on the fires' emissions in order to better understand the full effects of these fires so Asian officials can better balance food-production needs with the long-term needs of the environment.

Up next is a topic that goes hand in hand with the climate-change issue.