NASA Is Preparing for the Ravages of Climate Change

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When Hurricane Ida A landslide occurred in August, it hit NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans with rain and strong winds and shut down power in the area, forcing the site to run on generators. No one was injured, and no part of the Space Launch System rockets, which are manufactured there and are later planned for Moon missions, were affected. But more climate-intense storms will surely come.

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While NASA scientists are naturally focused on space, everything they do starts on Earth. As long as climate change continues, everyone has to be prepared for the worst. following the instructions of Biden Administration, Last week NASA and other federal agencies issued climate action plans. They mostly focus on adapting to a future in which some climate change cannot be avoided.

“Our goal is to reduce all the different threats that any individual space can face,” says Gavin Schmidt, NASA’s senior climate advisor, who contributed to the report. “We are one of the agencies that is not only a victim of climate change, but we are at the forefront of bringing science to the table to help us understand climate change and make better decisions.”


NASA and other parts of the federal government sought to develop climate plans during the Obama administration, and they are now reviving those efforts. NASA officials initially conducted adaptation assessments in 2011, which were updated in 2015, and are now being updated again. The agency’s newly released report highlights five areas of focus, including planning for climate risks when new missions go ahead, adopting as much infrastructure as possible, and ensuring access to space, which May have been interrupted by, say, a flooded road that delayed the delivery. Rocket fuel for the launchpad.

About two-thirds of NASA’s assets are within 16 feet above sea level — including Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Johnson Space Center in Houston — with hurricanes, flooding risks and rising seas giving the agency much to worry about. . “If we look globally and domestically, we have placed very valuable assets in the coastal region, including runways and launchpads. I think it is very exciting for NASA to move forward with the precision of an engineering-oriented agency,” said the University of Miami Katherine Mach, a climate scientist in the U.S., who is unaffiliated with NASA and who has served as lead author of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest assessment report.

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NASA’s action plan describes the cost of recent extreme weather events, which are likely to be worsened by climate change, which come with large bills for repairs. The Michoud Assembly Facility alone incurred nearly $400 million in costs after two hurricanes and one tornado. Recent hurricanes and flooding also damaged other infrastructure, with several sites on the Gulf and East Coast costing more than $100 million each. In Southern California, the 2009 station fire burned within one meter of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s perimeter, which had to be shut down. As an inland site, JPL may eventually face other climate problems, including drought and heat waves.

While NASA will only move buildings or launch complexes as a very expensive last resort, the agency is working more on “structural hardening” to enable buildings to withstand extreme weather or power damage. so that they can work temporarily off the grid. . “It could mean increasing altitude, adding pumping capacity and putting up barriers. It could be about building islands. It’s self-sustaining,” says Jesse Keenan, a social scientist at Tulane University with expertise on climate change adaptation and the built environment. Energy generation, as well as creating an autonomous infrastructure system like redundancy.” (Keenan has no affiliation with the NASA report.)

NASA’s ongoing efforts include building off-coast dunes to act as a buffer against oncoming storms, and stabilizing the shoreline to protect against massive waves and storm surges that damage coastal infrastructure. Surrounding can accelerate erosion.

According to climate planning, any new infrastructure would have to be placed above a 500-year floodplain, so those buildings would not require such fortifications for long. For example, NASA also aims to develop redundancy so that a critical mission does not rely on a single piece of equipment placed at a vulnerable facility.

Part of NASA’s plan includes working toward reducing carbon emissions, not just adapting to a world with more dangerous weather. Specifically, part of the plan focuses on “green aviation” or making airplane flights more sustainable by designing more efficient engines, batteries and fuels such as blending biofuels with conventional (but highly polluting) jet fuels. . NASA is also researching and investing in electrified aircraft propulsion systems that do not need to rely on liquid fuels. “Some people forget that the first A in ‘NASA’ is ‘Aeronautics,'” Schmidt says.

While such research is important, airplane flights are not the biggest part of the United States’ carbon budget. “In these conversations, airline travel has contributed very modestly (about 2 percent) to total carbon emissions,” writes Michael Mann, a climate scientist and author at Penn State. new climate war, in an email to Nerdshala. He supports these efforts but recommends that the government focus more on cutting carbon emissions from energy production and ground transport. “The most important action that NASA can continue to take is to educate our public and policymakers on the seriousness of the climate crisis and the urgency of transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy,” Mann writes.

Actually, education is also a component of the plan. NASA’s past educational efforts have often been directed toward scientists and the general public. But now the agency will also have an audience of decision-makers as it provides a range of training so senior NASA managers and others in the federal government can make better, climate-informed decisions about missions and budgets, Schmidt said. it is said.

To announce these and other new climate initiatives and signal their high priority, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is visiting several agency facilities this week. On Tuesday at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, Nelson described the agency’s work on drones and communications systems designed for quick response to wildfires, and researchers demonstrating a new technology for airports This will reduce taxi delays and runway congestion, reducing carbon. Emissions On Wednesday, Nelson will visit the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center north of Los Angeles, which hosts the experimental all-electric X-57 aircraft.

Then on Thursday, Nelson will visit JPL to give more details about a proposal to develop a “Climate Resilience Design Center” during his October 6 speech. virtual event Co-organized by NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This initiative is amission control center“Which will provide engineering expertise to state, local, tribal and regional governments as they adapt infrastructure to the changing climate.

In all of these initiatives, NASA will rely on data from its fleet of Earth-observing satellites to track climate-driven storms, crumbling beaches, dwindling water supplies, melting ice sheets, spreading wildfires, carbon emissions, and Track a lot. The agency’s multiple eyes in the sky not only scan the universe, but our own world as well. “I think there’s something inspiring about NASA’s plan to, in a way, travel to space and remote sensing with planet-orbiting satellites is all about perspective on Earth. I think both of these are. There’s something to be said about bringing it together,” Mach says.

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