AUSTIN (KXAN) – Months of extreme and unusual weather may have you on edge, but experts with NASA are saying these extremes are exactly what they expect to happen.
“These kinds of changes: extreme snowfall, extreme droughts, extreme heat waves, that’s very consistent with what we’ve expected from climate change,” said Lesley Ott, a climate scientist with NASA.
According to Ott, this “weirding of the weather” with more extreme and frequent weather is a result of the planet warming due to human-driven climate change.
“A lot of people are seeing this and thinking, ‘hey, you know, is this particular storm related to climate change?’ It’s always hard for us to tie any one particular event to climate change,” Ott explained. “But scientists have predicted for a number of decades that the way that we would experience climate change is through these changes in in extremes.”
Studying the planet from space
Since its inception, NASA has been studying changes on the planet. “I think a lot of people don’t know how much research we do about planet Earth. I think a lot of times, people don’t appreciate how much we do to study our home planet,” Ott said.
NASA has more than 25 satellites in orbit that monitor the Earth. According to the agency, they employ the most Earth scientists in the world.
“I think one of the surprises is how much data there is, but also ‘Hey, I didn’t know NASA did that. You guys do stuff that’s not studying Mars?’ We actually do a ton of work here on Earth,” Ott said.
What is NASA observing about the Earth?
According to Ott, the agency collects a great deal of data that helps understand how the climate on Earth is changing.
“Things like vegetation, water vapor, ozone, that’s been really important in helping us understand the baseline of the planet and how it’s changing in recent years as climate change progresses.”
Ott said that newer satellite data is helping with understanding air pollution and tracking the sources of greenhouse gasses.