[Narrator] Earth’s climate is changing at an unprecedented rate.
As the planet heats up, researchers are developing new tools to help them
understand the complexity of global warming.
A new NASA mission named Glory is on the horizon.
It’s goal is to gather critical data on some of the least understood aspects of climate change.
[Judith Lean] The compelling question about climate change that we would like to understand,
as a community really, and certainly as a science community
is how and why the Earth’s climate changes.
The forcing that people are most familiar with is the increase in greenhouse gases,
especially carbon dioxide. But there are multiple other forcings as well.
One of the big uncertainties in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
report is the effect of aerosols.
[Brian Cairns] Greenhouse gases we know really well. The aerosols
we really don’t know very well at all.
[Narrator] Aerosols are suspended throughout Earth’s atmosphere.
The particles are short-lived, highly variable, and difficult to study.
[James Hansen] The big thing about Glory is it will finally make aerosol measurements
with an accuracy that allows you to determine their role in climate change.
[Judith Lean] Another big uncertainty in climate change is
:‘what is the role of the Sun’s variations.’ The Sun is our energy source.
If we turn off the Sun, we have nothing left. So, we need to know how our energy source varies.
[Narrator] A team of scientists and engineers have developed a unique mission
that addresses these complex climate forcings.
[Bryan Fafaul] Glory is a critical part of NASA’s climate research program.
Glory has two primary scientific instruments. APS, the aerosol instrument,
will help us understand the chemical properties, the physical properties,
and the global distribution of aerosols within the Earth’s atmosphere.
And a solar instrument called TIM, which will continue a 28-year measurement
of the solar radiation.
[John Satrom] Those two instruments together, while they’re very different missions,
both have an impact on the global climate model and climate change.
[Narrator] Glory’s Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor, or APS, will enable researchers to monitor
aerosol particles from a space-based perspective.
[Michael Mishchenko] We need to study the distribution of particles globally,
and the only way to do that is from a satellite.
[Brian Cairns] The purpose of Glory APS is to provide a good estimate of
the amount the aerosols reflect and absorb sunlight,
so that we understand how the aerosols are affecting the climate that we live in.
[James Hansen] The data from Glory is primarily for the purpose of telling us what the
mechanisms are that force the climate models; how aerosols are changing
and how clouds are changing because of aerosols.
[Judith Lean] The second instrument will address how and why the Sun’s radiation varies.
[John Satrom] The mission of the TIM instrument is to keep an eye on the Sun
and the solar irradiance level that’s impacting Earth’s atmosphere.
Going back to the global climate model, when you think about the Earth, one of the largest
sources of climate forcing is the Sun and the Sun’s impact on the Earth.
[Judith Lean] The Total Irradiance Monitor on Glory looks at the Sun
and measures all that incoming energy.
We have recognized that we need to know and monitor the forcings
of climate change over a long period.
The TIM measurement is crucial in continuing this record of the Sun’s radiation
that we now have covering almost three solar cycles.
So, Glory is poised to give us new understanding of the magnitude of those forcings
and how it effects climate.
[Narrator] Glory will join a fleet of Earth observing satellites
known as the afternoon constellation, or A-Train.
[John Satrom] Instruments that are on spacecraft are up there 24 hours a day recording data.
We get incredibly large volumes of data off of these instruments.
It gives you that ability to look at every inch of the planet, every 16 days,
and you just, you can’t do that with anything on the ground.
[Narrator] The launch of the Glory mission signifies a new era of climate research.
[Narrator] Data from Glory will help researchers understand the inner workings
of our home planet.
[John Satrom] Glory is certainly, from my perspective, a very important program.
It’s going to contribute to helping to fine tune the global climate model,
and with the current emphasis on global climate change,
the climate model is where we have to start first, so Glory is a key piece to that.
[Bryan Fafaul] Glory scientists will learn valuable information about the Earth’s climate,
but more importantly it’s one more piece of the puzzle to help us
understand the most important planet we know, and that’s Earth.