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NASA's new chief scientist to focus on Earth, climate change

By Paul Brinkmann & Megan Hadley
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NASA's new chief scientist to focus on Earth, climate change
Kate Calvin was introduced NASA's new chief scientist and senior climate adviser Monday at a press briefing with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA

Jan. 11 (UPI) -- NASA's growing emphasis on Earth and climate science took sharper focus this week with the appointment of an Earth scientist, Katherine Calvin, to the agency's chief scientist position.

Calvin also will serve as senior climate officer, a new title at the agency, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a press conference Tuesday.

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"This is really a big deal for us... We've chosen to elevate this senior climate adviser position" to reflect new emphasis on climate change in the Biden administration, Nelson said.

Calvin has been a contributor to several major publications on climate change, including the third U.S. National Climate Assessment and two special reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Calvin will help guide NASA as it prepares to launch a series of new Earth observation satellites expected to offer the most complete, accurate and integrated data on how and why the climate is changing, she said in the press conference.

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The first of those missions, called NISAR, is planned for launch in January 2023 in cooperation with the Indian Space Research Organization.

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Those missions "will work together to create a 3-D, holistic view of the Earth... to help measure changes in the Earth's surface which will help us understand things like ice sheet collapse and landslides," Calvin said. "There's a lot more planned, and I'm looking forward to learning all of that as I settle in at NASA."

NASA launches and operates satellites that monitor weather, the climate and other Earth processes. Other agencies like the National Weather Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency use data from such spacecraft, Nelson noted.

Calvin "will bring her expertise in integrated human-Earth system modeling to help ensure the Biden Administration has the data needed to achieve the critical goal of protecting our planet," Nelson said.

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She plans to focus on connecting climate science research with the rest of NASA's research portfolio.

Among the projects Calvin will consider is how the water recycling system onboard the International Space Station could help communities on Earth struggling with drought and whether ISS carbon capture technologies might also apply to needs on the ground.

Out-of-this-world images from space

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA

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