Press Release

Speed Guns in Space: Free Talks on Using Radar to Monitor Climate

By SpaceRef Editor
January 23, 2002
Filed under , ,

How can the same radar technology used by law enforcement
officials to enforce speed limits be used in space to monitor
Earth’s climate? Find out at two free, public lectures at
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Thursday, Jan. 24, and
Pasadena City College on Friday, Jan. 25.

The lectures, entitled “The Winds and Beyond: The Radar
Scatterometer as a Global Climate Monitoring Device,” will be
presented by Dr. Michael Spencer, a senior radar systems
engineer at JPL. He will discuss the increasingly important
role radar technology and Earth-sensing radars, known as
scatterometers, are playing in monitoring Earth’s climate.
Such instruments are able to penetrate clouds and “see”
phenomena that are unobservable to conventional satellite-
based cameras.

In recent years, JPL-developed scatterometer instruments
such as the SeaWinds instrument on NASA’s Quick Scatterometer
satellite have measured and mapped global wind speed and
direction. These data have proven useful in improving the
forecast of extreme wind events, such as hurricanes, as well
as monitoring longer-term climatic effects, such as El Nino.
In addition to winds, researchers have found that
scatterometer measurements are a sensitive indicator of other
environmental processes. These new applications for
scatterometry include monitoring of the polar ice sheet,
detecting deforestation in the Amazon and predicting
destructive flooding events.

Spencer joinedREW’s radar science and engineering group
in 1990 and has been involved in the design, testing and
operation of several successful space radar missions. He is
currently developing concepts for future Earth-observing
sensors. Spencer earned a bachelor of science degree in
physics from The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va.;
master of science degrees in planetary science from The
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and in
electrical engineering from the University of Southern
California, Los Angeles; and a doctorate in electrical
engineering from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Both lectures begin at 7 p.m. Seating is on a first-
come, first-served basis. The lecture will be webcast live and
will also be available after the event on the JPL Web site.
The lecture at JPL, located at 4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena,
off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) Freeway,
will be held in the von Karman Auditorium. The Friday lecture
will be held in Pasadena City College’s Forum at 1570 E.
Colorado Blvd.

For more information, call (818) 354-0112. Information
on the von Karman lecture and webcast is available at
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures/jan02.html . JPL is a
division of Caltech.

SpaceRef staff editor.