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NASA has giant laser to understand oceans, Earth’s climate better

First Posted: Dec 27, 2016 03:46 AM EST
Hurricane Katia Churns In Atlantic

Hurricane Katia Churns In Atlantic(Photo : Getty Image/NOAA)

Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization or CALIOP is a giant laser in the sky. No, it won’t eradicate humankind, but it helps us see and understand our oceans better.

The said laser is on the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation or CALIPSO, which was launched in 2006. Using a laser, NASA’s CALIOP has been a great help for scientists in monitoring plankton in Polar Regions.

“CALIOP was a game changer in our thinking about ocean remote sensing from space,” said Chris Hostetler, a research scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center, as per MSN. “We were able to study the workings of the high-latitude ocean ecosystem during times of year when we were previously completely blind.”

Before the use of CALIOP, NASA can only see when there is an outside source of light, and that’s the sun. So when the weather is bad, you cannot monitor plankton activities. But with the new CALIOP, NASA is now able to collect data anytime, day and night and on any weather conditions.

A new study using a NASA satellite instrument orbiting Earth has found that small, environmental changes in polar food webs significantly influence the boom-and-bust, or peak and decline, cycles of phytoplankton. These findings will supply important data for ecosystem management, commercial fisheries and our understanding of the interactions between Earth’s climate and key ocean ecosystems.

“It’s really important for us to understand what controls these boom-and-bust cycles, and how they might change in the future so we can better evaluate the implications on all other parts of the food web,” said Michael Behrenfeld, a marine plankton expert at Oregon State University in Corvallis, as per Digital Trends.

NASA hopes to find ways to improve this technology. The more accurate the measure of the distribution of the planktons, the more we can do with managing the ecosystems.

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