Earth Science Branch

The Earth Science Branch conducts research of the Earth as a system with a focus on lightning and precipitation processes, weather and climate variability, monitoring fluxes of heat and water from the surface, and associated data management and mining activities for scientific discovery and applications for societal benefit.

Validating Raindrops Measured from Space for the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission

For the past decade, Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) has been tasked with validation of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) core satellite—NASA’s flagship Earth-observing satellite mission that measures the size of raindrops to observe where and how much precipitation occurs on a global scale. To do this, MSFC has obtained measurements of individual raindrops from around the globe and translated them using networks of operational ground-based weather radars for comparison with the GPM satellite estimates. This Validation Network and its application to assess GPM satellite retrievals of raindrop size are the topics of a recent study led by Dr. Patrick Gatlin (Earth Science Branch), with contributions from Dr. Walt Petersen (Science Research and Projects Division) and scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center, that was recently published in the journal Atmosphere. The results of this study are important because they provide a fundamental assessment of GPM satellite algorithms that is used by the GPM mission to improve the accuracy of its global maps of precipitation.

Ground Radar Sites for the GPM Validation Network
Ground Radar Sites for the GPM Validation Network

Virtual Training on Remote Sensing for Air Quality Provided, Supporting SERVIR-Mekong Air Quality Activities in Thailand

Dr. Pawan Gupta (USRA/MSFC) delivered a virtual training August 24, 2020 and August 26-28, 2020 to the Thai Pollution Control Department (PCD) and Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Agency (GISTDA) on Satellite Remote Sensing for Air Quality Monitoring and Forecasting, to build their capacity to use NASA Earth Observations. The training was attended by the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC)/SERVIR-Mekong, PCD, GISTDA and SERVIR Science Coordination Office (SCO) researchers and staff. The virtual training was a pre-cursor event for the upcoming release of the SERVIR-Mekong Air Quality Explorer that has been accepted by the PCD and GISTDA to incorporate into their existing air quality management system. The application features the use of NASA satellite Earth observation and model data to enable large-scale monitoring and forecasting of air quality in Thailand given current efforts heavily rely on sparse ground-based monitoring.


SPoRT Publishes First SWOT Early Adopter Peer-Reviewed Publication Featured as September Image of the Month by French Space Agency

As an early adopter for the Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission, the Short-term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) Center recently published the first SWOT early adopter peer-reviewed publication (DOI 10.1029/2020WR027464). SWOT is a joint mission between NASA and the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES). Led by MSFC NASA Postdoc Program fellow Dr. Nicholas Elmer, this publication is a collaboration between SPoRT scientists and CNES SWOT mission partners to demonstrate the simulation of SWOT data using the CNES Large-Scale SWOT Hydrology Simulator.


SWOT Image of the month

CNES Aviso+ is featuring this publication as their September 2020 Image of the Month ( to illustrate the value of simulated SWOT data in preparing for the mission prelaunch.

Earth Science Branch Participation in Virtual GLM Science Team Meeting

Nine members of the Earth Science Branch’s Atmospheric Electricity and SPoRT teams planned and participated in this year’s 2020 Geostationary Lightning Mapper  (GLM)Virtual Science Team meeting this year. Nearly 80 virtual participants tuned into three days of meetings on September 8 - 10, 2020. Chris Schultz, Steve Goodman, and Bill Koshak helped NOAA collaborator Dr. Scott Rudlosky plan the three day event, where 41 presenters from the research, operational forecasting, and program management communities shared their findings related to current and future GLM missions.  The team presented their impactful work related to validation of the GLM and ISS-LIS (Lightning Imaging Sensor) instruments, scientific understanding of thunderstorm charging applications to severe storms though observational analysis and numerical modeling, and their efforts to provide impactful algorithms, storm tracking, and short term forecast techniques to the operational weather community.  The week closed with discussion toward new objectives for the next 12 months, and the development of the GLM Value Assessment document being used by NOAA to assess the future implementation of a GLM instrument on NOAA’s GEO-XO mission concept to develop the next generation of geostationary sensors.

SERVIR Applied Sciences Team Project Makes Impact in Recent Nepal Floods

Each year torrential rains spell disaster for communities in mountainous regions of Nepal. To help mitigate this impact, a decision-making tool was developed by Dr. Patrick Gatlin and others on SERVIR’s Applied Sciences Team, led by Dr. Ashutosh Limaye, and at its hub in Nepal. The High Impact Weather Assessment Toolkit (HIWAT) provides high-resolution forecasts of precipitation that are used for predicting the rise and fall of water levels in the numerous rivers that cut through the Himalayan Mountains.

Recently, these HIWAT derived streamflow predictions were used at the local level in a city outside Kathmandu, Nepal to inform decision-makers of a potential disastrous flood event that was to occur. As a result of this new information and training on how to use it, district leaders were able to take preventative measures by digging a deeper river channel in advance of the flood event. These actions kept the city’s cement factory, which is one of its biggest industries, from receiving any damage—something that has not been the case in years past before they had such a tool as HIWAT.  This is yet another example of how SERVIR connects space to village and continues to develop innovative solutions that address critical challenges in developing countries.

HIWAT Components

NASA .gov Article Features Hailstorm Risk Research by Marshall Scientists

A new article highlights a ROSES: Disasters project funded to Chris Schultz, Dan Cecil, and Jordan Bell (ST11 Co-Is) and includes work by current NPP Sara Bang who will shortly join Marshall as a civil servant.

The NASA Langley Research Center component emphasizes monitoring of severe hail-producing storms from geostationary sensors including data obtained from NOAA and collaborative work from Marshall's ground station feed. The article also discusses the monitoring of severe storms via lightning (Schultz), hail damage detections to agriculture and vegetation (Bell), and informing insurance/re-insurance and risk assessment through global analyses in passive microwave (Cecil, Bang).

To read the full article, go to:

Dr. Manil Maskey Presented at the Civil Applications Committee Meeting and at the Cerner Healthcare Engineering Tech Talk.

Dr. Manil Maskey presented an overview of NASA's Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition (CSDA) program during the Civil Applications Committee meeting )CAC).  CAC is an interagency committee that coordinates and oversees the federal civil use of classified collections.  Recently, CAC activities have focused on a range of environmental and remote sensing applications central to Federal agency missions.  Dr. Maskey discussed NASA’s approach to commercial data evaluation and long-term sustainment.  Many federal agencies were interested in continuing the discussions further in terms of sharing of purchased commercial data and addressing issues with end user licensing.

On August 25, 2020, he presented “Data driven technology to accelerate Earth science research and applications” to the Cerner engineering community.  The talk highlighted the NASA Earth Science Data Systems (ESDS) program’s capabilities, challenges and technological approaches to address those challenges.  Dr. Maskey also demonstrated machine learning work by MSFC Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team (IMPACT).  This presentation is an effort to engage the community and maximize the opportunity for achieving IMPACT and ESDS’s outreach goals. A recording of the presentation can be found at

New SPoRT Satellite Product Adopted for Preliminary Assessment by the National Hurricane Center

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has adopted a new satellite product developed by the Short-term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) Center for preliminary testing. This product is derived from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Unique Combined Atmospheric Processing System (NUCAPS) satellite sounding retrievals, which use the heritage NASA AIRS Science Team version 5.9 algorithm. NUCAPS retrieves vertical profiles of temperature, humidity, trace gases, and cloud properties through a combination of both infrared and microwave instrumentation from a number of platforms, including the Suomi-National Polar-orbiting Partnership (S-NPP), a joint NASA-NOAA satellite.  The product includes both temperature and moisture anomalies, which are important for tropical cyclone (TC) intensity prediction, displayed in a storm-relative framework that makes it easier for forecasters to interpret. A web page that displays these anomalies in real time for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was created in collaboration with Dr. Rebekah Esmaili at the Science and Technology Corporation (STC)/Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS).

Hurricane Matthew

Images demonstrate regions of moist/dry air, as well as gradients in temperature and moisture, capturing important features such as dry air intrusions that can inhibit TC intensification. This product allows forecasters to diagnose short-term changes in TC thermodynamic structure, and supplements Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) water vapor imagery by providing the amount and location of moisture at a number of different vertical levels in the atmosphere. SPoRT will solicit feedback from forecasters at NHC over the coming months to further enhance the product in preparation for the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

SERVIR Well-Represented During NASA Applied Sciences Week

Applied Sciences Week 2020, taking place as a virtual event this year because of COVID-19, highlighted a wide variety of projects taking place within NASA's Earth Science Applied Sciences Program. SERVIR provided highlights of activities from around the globe each day, as part of an agenda that also featured DEVELOP closeout presentations from the summer 2020 term, application area overviews, and topics such as NASA Sustainable Development Goal activities. Ms. Emily Adams, Mr. Tim Mayer, and Ms. Andrea Nicolau, all of the SERVIR Science Coordination Office (SCO), presented on topics highlighting SERVIR hub activities in Africa, Amazonia and Asia. Ms. Betzy Hernandez, SCO Capacity Building Lead, presented on Capacity Building Program activities with the Central American Integration (SICA), as part of the SICA Engagement Overview & Highlights. In addition, SERVIR Applied Sciences Team PI Dr. Hyongki Lee presented a Water Resources Highlight on activities in the Mekong Region. The event took place 8/3-6/20, with NASA's new Earth Science Division (ESD) Director, Dr. Karen St. Germain, providing opening remarks on the first day, and Dr. Lawrence Friedl, Applied Sciences Program Director, opening the sessions on the following days.   ​

servir3_0 black small

MSFC Earth Science Disasters Team Participation in Applied Sciences Week

During the week of August 3, 2020 NASA’s Earth Science held a virtual “Applied Science Week” in lieu of the normal festivities in-person at NASA Headquarters during the same time of year.  During the week, activities within the Applied Sciences Program were presented to a broad audience of local and national/international partners.  Andrew Molthan provided a briefing regarding the ongoing Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Working Group on Disasters and its recently initiated Flood Pilot, featuring collaborations with U.S. and Canadian partners on the application of low-Earth orbit (LEO), geostationary (GEO), and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery to addressing immediate post-event and longer-term mapping of flood extents.  Work within the Flood Pilot will continue to explore shared methods for flood mapping and sharing of data to the benefit of the disaster response, preparedness, and mitigation communities while further exploring international partnerships encouraging open access to relevant data sets and sharing of techniques and methodologies for flood mapping from remote sensing observations.

Flood small

Paper on the International Space Stations Lightning Imaging Sensor Accepted in Journal of Geophysical Research

Doctors Rich Blakeslee (ST11/Emeritus) and Timothy J. Lang (ST11) are lead authors on a paper, titled “Three years of the Lightning Imaging Sensor onboard the International Space Station: Expanded Global Coverage and Enhanced Applications," that was recently accepted for publication in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. Several other Earth Science Branch-affiliated scientists also contributed to the study. The paper provides an overview of the International Space Station Lightning Imaging Sensor (ISS LIS), which has provided global observations of lightning from the ISS since March 2017. ISS LIS is the only existing instrument providing global observations of total lightning - day and night, with high uniform detection efficiency over land and ocean. 


The mission builds on the highly successful Optical Transient Detector (OTD; 1995-2000) and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) LIS (1997-2015) instruments, and extends global lightning monitoring to higher latitudes (+/- 55°) than were previously available from TRMM LIS. Due to the uniqueness and importance of ISS LIS measurements, the journal editor has also recommended a highlight of the paper to appear in the American Geophysical Union's Eos magazine. ISS LIS is nearing the end of the NASA Senior Review process, where Dr. Lang led a recent presentation on ISS LIS science to a panel convened by NASA Headquarters, and an extension of the mission to as late as Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 has been requested. A Senior Review decision is expected by the end of FY 2020.​

SPoRT Scientists Lead hurricane Forecast Briefings for NOAA's Hurricane Research Division

Each year, the Hurricane Research Division (HRD) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducts a field campaign to provide real-time observations to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center. The field program's three aircraft collect data that are invaluable in improving the accuracy of hurricane forecasts. An integral part of this field campaign is a daily weather briefing led by scientists from HRD, other federal agencies, and universities. This briefing is used to make important decisions regarding aircraft deployment and flight patterns. Dr. Erika Duran and Dr. Patrick Duran of the Short-Term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) project led HRD’s daily weather briefings for the week of 8/3-7/20. The briefings consisted of real-time analysis of satellite and aircraft datasets along with an interpretation of model forecasts. The daily meetings provided a forum to feature existing and newly developed SPoRT products to 50-90 hurricane researchers and forecasters from across the nation. For example, the Gridded NOAA Unique Combined Atmospheric Processing System (NUCAPSsounding product, which SPoRT is collaborating with other agencies to develop, proved highly useful in characterizing dry air near Hurricane Isaias. This dry air was an important factor that inhibited further intensification of the hurricane off the coast of Florida. SPoRT scientists will continue to participate in the briefings throughout the hurricane season to help identify new applications for NASA data sets in hurricane forecasting.


Earth Observatory Article on Impact to Agricultural Crops in Iowa Following Intense Derecho

Mr. Jordan Bell and Dr. Christopher Schultz (Earth Science Branch) were interviewed for an Earth Observatory article ( following the devastating Derecho that moved through Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana on 8/10/20. This derecho flattened wide swaths of near-peak maturity crop land. Their interview comes as both are part of a broader four yearlong Applied Sciences project that is utilizing Earth observations to monitor intense thunderstorms that produce hail damage around the globe. Mr. Bell is using satellite imagery from both optical and synthetic aperture radar instruments to analyze damage swaths in agricultural areas. Dr. Schultz used lightning rates to track these damaging storms from a satellite perspective providing initial locations to look for damage in Mr. Bell’s analysis.  Dr. Schultz also connected the analysis to key partners with the Iowa State Climatologist Office and the National Weather Service Offices in Des Moines and Davenport to get the initial crop damage assessment to the field.

Dr. Manil Maskey Recognized as an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Senior Member

IEEE is the world's largest technical professional society and through its membership, individuals have access to cutting-edge information and networking opportunities with industry leaders in the areas of aerospace, computer science, and many other areas. Senior membership is the highest level of recognition within the IEEE community and is designated only to those members who have a total of 10 years of experience as an engineer, scientist, and/or technical executive and have demonstrated 5 years of significant achievement. Dr. Maskey was awarded this honor due to his significant contributions to the Earth Science and Computer Science communities. Dr. Maskey has published numerous journal articles and organized conference sessions.  Currently, he serves as the Earth System Informatics Chair for the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society. These activities have allowed him to mentor students and network with data science and informatics experts from academia and industry.


SERVIR Network Participates in Virtual Tethys Training

SERVIR hosted a virtual Tethys Training from July 13 through August 14, 2020 led by subject matter expert Dr. Nathan Swain of Aquaveo.  Originally planned as an in-person training to take place at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), home of the SERVIR-Hindu Kush Himalaya hub in Kathmandu, Nepal, the workshop was changed to a virtual event because of COVID-19. The self-paced training was offered as three online courses, with two of the courses covering integration of Google Earth Engine into a Tethys app and one covering a typical Tethys production server deployment. The SERVIR Science Coordination Office (SCO) Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) team reviewed and provided feedback on the online documents, code tutorials, and videos in preparation for the training.  Participants included team members from the SCO and three SERVIR hubs (SERVIR-Eastern and Southern Africa, SERVIR-Hindu Kush Himalaya, and SERVIR-Amazonia). Originally developed for supporting water resources applications, Tethys’ Python-powered Software Development Kit (SDK) can be used for any thematic/scientific modeling web-based applications. More information on the Tethys Platform can be found at . SERVIR-developed Tethys-based apps are found on the SERVIR Global Tethys Portal at​.

MSFC IMPACT Team Publishes Journal Article on Tropical Cyclone Intensity Estimation Through Deep Learning Techniques

Impact Logo 2

Inter-Agency Implementation and Advanced Concepts (IMPACT) Team members Dr. Manil Maskey, Dr. Rahul Ramachandran, Mr. Muthukumaran Ramasubramanian, Mr. Iksha Gurung, Dr. Brian Freitag, Mr. Aaron Kaulfus, Mr. Drew Bollinger along with collaborators Dr. Dan Cecil (Earth Science Branch) and Mr. Jeffrey Miller (Climate Forecast Applications Network) were co-authors on a journal article entitled: “Deepti: Deep-Learning-Based Tropical Cyclone Intensity Estimation System.” The article discusses the implementation of a situational awareness tool to monitor tropical cyclone intensities which are determined objectively using a deep-learning technique on highly temporal infrared satellite imagery. The portal has been tested in a production environment and expert feedback has been incorporated.  The portal, one of the firsts of its kind, is a collaborative effort between IMPACT, hurricane science, and Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center (SPoRT) teams within the MSFC Earth Science Branch.  The article is published in the Institute of Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing (JSTARS).

SERVIR and Group on Earth Observations Global Water Sustainability (GEOGloWS) Virtual Hackathon

SERVIR and the GEOGloWS communities came together for a virtual hackathon form August 3-7, 2020. Applied Sciences Team (AST) Principal Investigator (PI) Dr. Jim Nelson of Brigham Young University (BYU) hosted the virtual hackathon, bringing together over 70 PIs, co-Is, post docs, and students from around the country, including the NASA/SERVIR Science Coordination Office. Nine teams formed to learn how to use the online platform Tethys, collaborate on science, and to rapidly build web applications that allow users to view and analyze data from satellites and hydrology forecasts. This hackathon embodied the spirit of teamwork that SERVIR envisions in its Applied Sciences Team. The fruits of these collaborations will benefit the broader SERVIR network as the AST co-develops with SERVIR hubs and their stakeholder organizations in support of water resources management and disaster risk reduction.

Dr. Rahul Ramachandran Serving as a Technical Monitor for a NASA Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research

Dr. Ramachandran will serve as a technical monitor for the University of Delaware’s EPSCoR project titled “Building a Competitive and Sustainable Delaware Remote Sensing Big Data Center for Cutting-Edge Coastal and Environmental Change Research and Workforce Development”. This project is developing the next-generation computational and data science cyberinfrastructure through the Data Science Institute, including a new National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant to implement an advanced high-performance computing and data system for transformative research and training. The project will support research initiatives that will address critical environmental issues, bringing broad social, educational and economic benefits to Delaware and the Nation.

Renewed 5-Year Agreements Signed for Two SERVIR Hubs

Two of SERVIR’s existing hubs, SERVIR-Eastern and Southern Africa (E&SA) and SERVIR-Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) have signed new 5-year agreements, extending their partnerships under the joint NASA and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) initiative, for another five years for each host organization.  SERVIR-E&SA is hosted at the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Nairobi, Kenya.  The kickoff meeting for the new agreement with RCMRD is scheduled for August 10, 2020. Under the new agreement, Zambia and Malawi are added to the countries that SERVIR-E&SA primarily focuses on (Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania). USAID and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), host organization for SERVIR-HKH, along with NASA and USAID representatives, convene to sign their next 5-year agreement on July 30, 2020. ICIMOD is based in Kathmandu, Nepal, and SERVIR-HKH focus countries are Nepal, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Afghanistan, and Pakistan. On June 30, 2020, USAID and NASA signed a new Inter-Agency Agreement to continue the SERVIR Participating Agency Program Agreement (PAPA) for another 5 years, to the year 2025​.

servir3_0 black small

Earth Science IMPACT Team Members Help Develop COVID-19 Dashboards

Dr. Manil Maskey (ST11) and several other IMPACT team members participated in a virtual unveiling of the Tri-Agency Earth Observing Dashboard on June 25, 2020. The dashboard encompasses resources and expertise from three agencies to help strengthen our global understanding of the environmental and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Users can explore how indicators based on remote sensing data from ESA, JAXA and NASA have evolved over time and investigate how Pandemic guidelines and safety-measures have affected Earth's air, land, water, and economic activities. Dr. Maskey led a team of software developers and science experts to develop a framework for transforming Earth observation data for the dashboard.  Additionally, Dr. Maskey led machine learning experts in quantifying shipping activities from commercial satellite observations.

The EOS article on the dashboard can be found at and the Tri-Agency Dashboard can be accessed at

Tri-agency dashboard

NASA’s COVID-19 Dashboard: A beta version of the NASA’s Earthdata COVID-19 Dashboard has been developed and features data collected about Earth systems by a fleet of powerful global Earth-Observing satellites, instruments aboard the International Space Station, airborne science campaigns, and via ground observations. As communities around the world have changed their behavior in response to the spread of COVID-19, NASA satellites have observed changes in the environment. This experimental dashboard reflects a rapid response to COVID-19 that is currently underway and will continue to evolve as more data becomes available. The dashboard will be publicly released in the next few weeks. IMPACT researchers (see picture below) were instrumental in development of this NASA dashboard including web development, machine learning algorithm development, infrastructure setup, and science data preparation for dashboard.

NASA’s Earthdata COVID-19 Beta Dashboard can be found at:

NASA COVID-19 dashboard beta
Screen Shot 2020-06-25 at 8.55.38 AM small

SERVIR Applied Sciences Team (AST) and SERVIR-Amazonia Hub Working Together to Provide Amazon Fire Forecast to Decision Makers

Doug Morton, a SERVIR AST Principal Investigator for SERVIR-Amazonia, shares the state of the science regarding the upcoming Fire Season in Amazonia in a new NASA article. Morton (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) leads one of the four AST projects in SERVIR-Amazonia. Each of these projects is developed in collaboration with the SERVIR hub. His project “Forecasting seasonal to sub-seasonal fire and agricultural risk from drought in Amazonia” is producing valuable information to inform decisions makers about fire potential for this year. The fire potential is high due to expected dry conditions for this fire season. The Fire Risk Forecast web page was co-created by Morton and Co-Investigator (Co-I) Yang Chen (University of California, Irvine).  SERVIR-Amazonia also organized a webinar at the end of June to share information about the upcoming fire season, where Morton’s Co-I, Niels Andela (University of Maryland, College Park), along with Katia Fernandes from University of Arkansas and Matt Finer from Monitoring of the Amazon Andean Project MAAP shared findings related to fires and their association with recent deforestation, and the appropriate climatic conditions with high potential for fires this year, with decision makers and stakeholders in the region.​

Click here to read the NASA article:

Paper on Lightning Mapper Array in Argentina Accepted in Journal of Atmospheric and Ocanic Technology

Dr. Timothy J. Lang (ST11) is lead author on a paper, titled “The RELAMPAGO Lightning Mapping Array: Overview and initial comparison to the Geostationary Lightning Mapper," that was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology.

GOES-R w Logo

Dr. Rich Blakeslee (ST11/Emeritus) and NASA colleagues from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and elsewhere also contributed to the study. The paper reports on three-dimensional observations made by a NASA Marshall Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) that was deployed during 2018-2019 in the Cordoba province in north-central Argentina.This region has long been known for producing some of the strongest thunderstorms on Earth, and the LMA made many unique observations of lightning within extreme convection. The new study with the LMA shows that the detection efficiency of the spaceborne Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) varies significantly (between ~30-90%) with thunderstorm evolution and the dominant characteristics of the lightning being produced. RELAMPAGO (Remote sensing of Electrification, Lightning, And Mesoscale/microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations) was the name of the field campaign that the LMA supported (relampago = lightning) in Spanish. The field campaign was focused on intense convection and was primarily funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), while the LMA deployment received its funding from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - R series (GOES-R) Program Office, which supports validation activities for GLM by NASA Marshall.

Click here to read the article:

Marshall Scientists Help Certify New World Records Set for Lightning Size and Duration

Doctors Timothy J. Lang (ST11) and Rich Blakeslee (ST11/Emeritus) contributed to the certification of two new World Meteorological Organization (WMO) records for lightning size and duration. The new records - longest flash distance of 440 miles (709 km) and longest flash duration of 16.73 seconds - more than double the previous WMO lightning records from 2017 (which were also co-certified by Dr. Lang). The reason is because the spaceborne Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) instrument, with its continuous hemispheric field of view, was used to map these new flash extremes. The flashes occurred in Brazil (October 31, 2018, size) and Argentina (March 4, 2019, duration). The latter flash was also partially resolved by a NASA Marshall Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) deployed to north-central Argentina. Detailed analysis of both flashes, including the comparison with the LMA, can be found in an article titled “New WMO Certified Megaflash Lightning Extremes for Flash Distance (709 km) and Duration (16.73 seconds) recorded from Space,” which was recently published in Geophysical Research Letters found at this link:  ​


New Video Series Showcasing NASA's Applied Sciences Team (AST) Collaborations with SERVIR Hubs

​​Three years of NASA SERVIR AST projects, selected through a ROSES solicitation in 2015, culminated in a close-out conference hosted at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. After interviewing SERVIR hub scientists, AST Principal Investigators, and other key team members who attended the conference event, a series of five videos was produced. These have recently been released, highlighting the cutting-edge research and collaborative science conducted during the proposal time frame.

Each video contains detailed information about the services developed during this second iteration of the SERVIR AST projects, and can be viewed on the SERVIR Global website at The five videos can also be viewed on SERVIR's YouTube channel:

Each video showcases details about the service as well as associated impacts on the ground--connecting space to village.

NASA and the United States Agency for International Development Sign New Interagency Agreement for SERVIR

On June 30, 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and NASA signed a new Inter-Agency Agreement to continue the SERVIR Participating Agency Program Agreement (PAPA) that started in 2005 for another 5 years.  This establishes a firm foundation of support from both USAID and NASA to continue SERVIR to the year 2025 and beyond, to “Connect Space to Village” around the world using Earth observation data to improve the lives for many. This agreement provides $12.55 million from USAID to NASA in the next 5 years to continue science coordination support to the five SERVIR hubs, with an additional $5 million potential for related work and funding opportunities. This partnering agreement will strengthen and continue USAID and NASA efforts to apply science and build capacity to use Earth observing satellites and geospatial data, enabling local solutions toward prosperity for developing communities, countries, and regions around the world.​

servir3_0 black small

SERVIR Science Coordination Office (SCO) Hosts NASA Webinar on Service Planning Apprach

On June 23, 2020, Ms. Emily Adams, Ms. Amanda Markert, and Dr. Emil Cherrington of the SERVIR SCO led a NASA webinar exchange with engaged members of  NASA's Earth Science Division on the topic of Service Planning. Nancy Searby, NASA Capacity Building Program Manager, opened the virtual event and introduced the speakers. As a joint initiative of NASA and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), SERVIR develops Earth observation-based services through a series of key steps that are expected in international development projects, including developing a Theory of Change; the user consultation and needs assessment process; stakeholder mapping; service design; gender considerations in service design; and monitoring, evaluation and learning. To support SERVIR’s Service Planning approach to designing these geospatial information services, the SERVIR network (including the NASA SERVIR SCO, the SERVIR Support Team from Chemonics, and SERVIR hubs around the world) has developed a Service Planning Toolkit. 63 participants dialed into the webinar, which built on topics originally showcased in 2017 at an event for the SERVIR network (hosted at the SERVIR-Eastern & Southern Africa hub), along with lessons learned from several years of applying the approach at the five SERVIR hubs.

NASA Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) Early Adopter Program Virtual Hackathon

From May 26 to June 1, 2020, the SPoRT project participated in a virtual hackathon for Early Adopters of the NASA Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission. The hackathon was designed to engage Early Adopters and help them overcome technical issues in preparing for SWOT data and using the SWOT data simulator. MSFC NPP scientist Dr. Nicholas Elmer participated in the hackathon as a presenter and hacker-helper. Dr. Elmer contributed to the SWOT data simulator to improve usability by the Early Adopter community and wrote the simulator tutorial used by other Early Adopters during the hackathon. As an Early Adopter, SPoRT is preparing to integrate SWOT observations into the NOAA National Water Model and the SPoRT Land Information System (SPoRT-LIS) product, and has supported the need for low-latency SWOT products to use in operational and near-real-time systems.


Roses Proposal Selected for Funding

Dr. Emily Berndt (ST11) in collaboration with Dr. Nicholas Elmer (ST11/NPP/USRA) and Dr. Gary Jedlovec (ST11 Branch Chief) submitted a proposal to NASA ROSES 2019 Earth Science Research from Operational Geostationary Satellite Systems solicitation to expand previous work to correct and intercalibrate imagery from different satellite platforms which ultimately improves feature identification and detection in multispectral composites.  The team members within Short-term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) have a history of developing techniques and capabilities to improve multispectral imagery for the benefit of society and use by operational end users.  The proposal “Development of limb-corrected and intercalibrated multispectral composites from the constellation of geostationary satellites" was 1 of 9 selected for funding out of a pool of 83 submissions to NASA.  Over the three-year project, the team will refine the previously developed techniques, expand other international geostationary platforms, validate and conduct process studies, and collaborate with NASA Ames to make the improved data available to the broader research community through the GeoNEX data portal. The improved data will additionally benefit SPoRT partners who routinely use multispectral composites – derived from the MSFC Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) receiving station data- in weather forecasting operations.

Marshall Earth Science Disasters Team Collaborating with Partners to Assist with Michigan Floods and Tropical Storm Cristobal

The NASA Headquarters team supporting Earth Science Disasters activities requested a "response" to flooding in Michigan resulting from heavy rains and combined dam failures.  Team member Lori Schultz was included as the event lead, helping to coordinate inputs from distributed partners.  MSFC team members acquired Landsat and DigitalGlobe Worldview imagery to assist with event analysis, JPL team members contributed their view of flooding from a Planet imagery granule, and external partners provided additional water extent mapping.


An ongoing collaboration with the University of Alabama and Google Earth Engine facilitated an experimental estimation of flood water depth, a new angle and improvement upon other analysis techniques to date.  Information is being shared with partners at FEMA HQ to support their interests and involvement in flood response activities.

Hurricane Cristobal small

Lori Schultz is also currently serving as the “event lead” for activities regarding the recent Tropical Storm Cristobal impacts to the Gulf Coast. As the event lead, she has been participating in routine organizational calls with the Disasters Team. However, the coastal/rainfall-based flooding has been less severe than anticipated and no major actions were taken in response.​

New Book, “Satellite Precipitation Measurement, Vol 2”, Features Chapters by SRPD Deputy Manager, Walt Petersen

“Satellite Precipitation Measurement, Vol 2” has recently been published by Springer and features chapters authored or co-authored by Walt Petersen, Deputy Manager of the Science Research and Projects Division.  Over the last two decades, there have been significant advances in the measurement of precipitation from space, primarily due to the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM), CloudSat, and a constellation of satellites hosting passive microwave sensors. This book provides a complete overview.

Walt Petersen led the chapter on “GPM Ground Validation” (Chapter 26), describing the GPM Ground Validation program, its international contributions, instrumentation, and science results. The chapter also focuses on describing observed characteristics of precipitation (e.g., 3D structure of precipitation from the surface to the tropopause, precipitation phase, drop-size distributions, rain and snowfall rates etc.) and how these characteristics compared to GPM satellite-based remote sensing estimates.

He also co-authored a second chapter (Chapter 31), “Integrated multi-satellite evaluation for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission: Impact of precipitation types on spaceborne precipitation estimation.”  This chapter describes new state of the art radar network-based products developed in collaboration with NOAA, unique ways to use those products to compare ground and satellite-based estimates of precipitation, and how those comparisons vary as a function of the precipitation regimes and their physics.

“Satellite Precipitation Measurement” is a two volume work and more information can be found at

Specific chapters referenced:

 Petersen, W. A., P. E. Kirstetter, J. Wang, D. B. Wolff, A. Tokay, 2020: The GPM Ground Validation Program. Chapter 26 in, Satellite Precipitation Measurement, V. Levizzani et al. (eds), Vol. 2, Springer-Nature.

Kirstetter, P., W. A. Petersen, C. D. Kummerow, and D. B. Wolff, 2020:  Integrated multi-satellite evaluation for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission: Impact of precipitation types on spaceborne precipitation estimation. Chapter 31, in Satellite Precipitation Measurement, V. Levizzani et al. (eds), Vol. 2, Springer-Nature.

Walt's book

Earth Science's Dan Irwin a Guest Participant in a Live World Environment Day Event


Dan Irwin was an honored guest participant in an Instagram Live event last Friday for World Environment Day hosted by Mae Jemison. Mae’s thank you note stated her thanks for a “really incredible, engaging energetic discussion of SERVIR, remote sensing and space connection with Earth. I've been getting such rave reviews about folks learning about the work NASA does. I was so pleased to have been with an organization that had the foresight o support your work.”

Marshall's Earth Science Branch Supports Multiple COVID-19 Efforts

On May 29, 2020, the Inter-Agency Implementation and Advanced Concepts (IMPACT) team, in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), made the following datasets (Ozone Monitoring Instrument NO2, MODIS Vegetation Indices and MODIS Aerosol Optical Depth) available in Cloud Optimized GeoTIFF (COG) format for the COVID-19 Space Apps Challenge. COG allows data to be dynamically analyzed in efficient ways.


The global hackathon held on May 30 - 31, 2020 invited teams to use Earth observation and other open source data to formulate solutions to challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. NASA and AWS have a space act agreement in place to explore best practices around discovery, access, and use of high-value NASA science datasets. Making these products freely available for the virtual event showcased the partnership and emphasized our efforts in making analytics-optimized data stores available to the science community. More information about the datasets and access can be found at  These datasets were also ingested into the Euro Data Cube along with datasets from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and European Space Agency.

NASA also hosted a special edition of the Space Apps Challenge to invite participants to develop analyses on the COVID-19 global pandemic using NASA observations.  Dr. Andrew Molthan  participated as a subject matter expert for the “Light the Path” challenge, where participants were to use nighttime light and other observations to try and track changes in human behavior as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Dr. Molthan participated remotely with global (remote) participants to provide guidance and suggestions on how to incorporate NASA data, including processing of imagery and opportunities to combine nighttime lights, surface remote sensing, population, and other data to help address questions of interest.  Later this summer, Andrew and other NASA colleagues will have an opportunity to judge the final submitted projects and select multiple winners.

Green Team Presentation on COVID-19 Impacts to Climate

COVID-19 virus

At the June meeting of Marshall’s Green Team, Dr. Gary Jedlovec  presented insight on the potential impact of Covid-19 on climate change.  The industrial slowdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a 25-30% reduction in global daily carbon dioxide emissions (~20 MegaTons CO2 / day) for the months of March-May 2020. Despite what seems to be a significant drop in emission, this has yet to show any reduction in the upward annual trend observed in carbon dioxide over the last 80 years.

However, satellite observations of nitrogen dioxide, a key component of air pollution (particles around 2.5 micrometers in size) and highly correlated with burning of fossil fuels, show large reductions over cities compared to pre-COVID-19 amounts.  This reduction has led to less pollution, increased visibility, and lower health risks for respiratory problems in these regions.  NASA and other agencies around the world have increased funding efforts to further explore the impact of the pandemic on the environment.   Marshall’s Green Team supports Marshall’s environmental policy to enabling NASA’s mission by providing environmental compliance and stewardship and a safe, healthful workplace with its actions and educational outreach activities.  Dr. Jedlovec supports the Green Team related to climate components of NASA’s Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP).

Lightning Research Flashes Forward

Chris Schultz was interviewed by AGU’s Heather Goss as part of a team of authors about how GLM advances lightning research for improved forecasts and increased understanding of lightning processes.

This article highlights the collaboration between NASA SPoRT and the National Weather Service in Huntsville for severe thunderstorm warning decisions in December 2019 and January 2020 in the Tennessee Valley.  Schultz also spoke of the lightning safety initiatives within SPoRT for the improvement in public safety. SPoRT’s work with lightning initiated wildfires was also highlighted to demonstrate how SPoRT is working to identify lightning initiated wildfires in real-time. This article included other key researchers who work with the Lightning Group at MSFC and SPoRT, like Ryan Said at Vaisala, lightning safety experts Ron Holle and May Ann Cooper, lightning researcher Bill Rison at New Mexico Tech University, and NWS Huntsville warning forecaster Ashley Ravenscraft.

SERVIR Analysis Using NASA Satellite Data Demonstrates Effectiveness of U.S. Government Investments in Ethiopia.

NASA satellite data analysis conducted by the SERVIR Science Coordination Office demonstrated the success of a decade of water-related investments (e.g., dam and diversions) supported by the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Food for Peace projects in Ethiopia.

For instance, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace has supported community-level resilience-building activities in eastern Tigray, Ethiopia, including the construction of water management infrastructure, through the Government of Ethiopia-led Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). A recent analysis used 34 years of satellite data (1984-2018) to explore changes in land productivity and water availability associated with the construction of this infrastructure at 36 sites in eastern Tigray. SERVIR’s analysis of NASA satellite observations found that:

  • Project sites show increased water availability throughout the year.
  • Increased water availability persists in drought years.
  • In most sites, water infrastructure interventions likely strengthened resilience by improving water access during the main cropping season.
  • In some areas, water infrastructure interventions have also strengthened resilience by allowing for a second crop to be planted.

USAID invests billions of dollars in support of country initiatives around the world, with an aim of promoting US diplomacy initiatives. Without satellite data and analysis, it is often difficult to show results of these investments at the landscape scale. SERVIR’s analysis was applauded by USAID senior leadership and is published in different formats (Agrilinks article and video). NASA is currently training SERVIR hubs to perform similar analyses to replicate the methodology in other countries.


SERVIR Science Coordination Office Supports Virtual Training on Monitoring of Mangroves

Ms. Andrea Nicolau, Ms. Kelsey Herndon, and Ms. Africa Flores-Anderson of the SERVIR SCO supported the virtual training “Mapping and monitoring changes in mangrove forests using Python and more”, led by Dr. Marc Simard (NASA JPL) twice a week from 5/14/20 to 6/8/20. The training was the second provided as part of Dr. Simard’s subject matter expert work to support the systematic monitoring of mangroves in Guyana. The eight online sessions used cloud-computing resources provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI) that served as a time-saving alternative to working with big data and complex software in an online setting. Objectives of the training included producing basic map products with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data for a monitoring system and documenting the production methods so they can be replicated on an annual basis. The virtual workshop also included the participation of Dr. Temilola Fatoyinbo and her team from NASA GSFC as guest presenters to leverage the use of Google Earth Engine for the mapping and monitoring of mangroves.

The nineteen participants included individuals from the University of Guyana (UoG), National Agricultural Research and Extension Agency (NAREI), Conservation International (CI), Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), Conservation International (CI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Hydrometeorological Service, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Ministry of Natural Resources, Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure – Sea and River Division.

guyana mangroves

Paper on Weather Model Assimilation of CYGNSS Wind Observations Published in Remote Sensing

Dr. Timothy J. Lang is a coauthor on a paper, titled “A Study on Assimilation of CYGNSS Wind Speed Data for Tropical Convection during 2018 January MJO,” that was recently accepted for publication in the journal Remote Sensing.

The study, led by NASA colleagues at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Drs. Xuanli Li and John Mecikalski), tested the assimilation of Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) wind observations, along with other datasets, into a weather forecast model. This is one of the first studies to test the assimilation of CYGNSS winds for forecasting tropical weather other than just tropical cyclones, as the focus was convection that occurred during an active Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). The MJO is a tropical weather pattern that can have global impacts, and CYGNSS may help improve our understanding of the MJO, because compared to traditional scatterometers CYGNSS wind observations are less sensitive to heavy rainfall that occurs during active MJOs. The study found that CYGNSS did indeed lead to improvements in weather forecasts during the MJO, especially for winds. However, even better forecast improvement occurred when other global wind and precipitation datasets were ingested as well. This study shows the added value of CYGNSS data for tropical weather forecasting, when used as part of a holistic data assimilation approach.

The article can be found here:

Dr. Rahul Ramachandran Selected for the High Performance Computing (HPC) Technical Computing Advisory Panel

Dr. Rahul Ramachandran has been selected as a panelist on Hyperion Research’s HPC Advisory Panel. The panel is composed of government and private industry professionals, data scientists and researchers who work with HPC and provide vital insight to shaping the future direction of HPC. Panelists will participate in online surveys throughout the year on a variety of topics related to industry trends, challenges, and new HPC technologies.

More information on the HPC User Forum can be found at


SERVIR-Amazonia and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Host Virtual Training on Sample-Based Area Estimation

Ms. Africa Flores-Anderson, Ms. Kelsey Herndon and Ms. Andrea Nicolau of the SERVIR Science Coordination Office (SCO) supported a virtual training on “Sample-Based Area Estimation and Accuracy Assessment”. This was a joint workshop between SERVIR-Amazonia and FAO. Trainers included Ms. Paula Paz from the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Ms. Milagros Becerra from Conservacion Amazonica – ACCA , Mr. Erith Muñoz from FAO and Ms. Africa Flores-Anderson from SERVIR SCO.  The objective of the training was to strengthen the capacity of technical staff from the Ministry of Environment and Water of Ecuador (MAE) to perform their area estimations and accuracy assessment using state-of-the-art methods that help them mitigate omission errors found in their forest maps.  Eleven staff members from MAE participated in the training. Free and open-source Open Foris platforms, including SEPAL and Collect Earth Online (CEO) were used. MAE is currently working to produce its carbon emission estimates for the 2018-2019 period to access their results-based payment for reduced deforestation for the third time. This ongoing collaboration with SERVIR-Amazonia and FAO will contribute to MAE´s goals to effectively estimate emissions reduction and enroll in results-based payments in order for communities to sustain their conservation efforts.

Servir amazonia image

SERVIR Subject Matter Expert-Led Training on Mapping Forest Degradation with Synthetic Aperture Radar

Ms. Kelsey Herndon, Ms. Andrea Nicolau, and Ms. Africa Flores-Anderson of the SERVIR Science Coordination Office (SCO) supported the virtual training “Mapping Forest Degradation with SAR Sentinel-1 Time Series”, led by Dr. Josef Kellndorfer (EarthBigData). The training was the third provided as part of Dr. Kellndorfer’s subject matter expert work to support the expansion of SAR to existing forest monitoring platforms in SERVIR-Amazonia (SAMZ) partner organizations. Objectives included implementing various degradation algorithms using Sentinel-1 time series data in Jupyter Notebooks, testing the effectiveness of the algorithms for identifying known degradation sites, and developing appropriate recommendations on which methods to use to identify forest degradation in an operational manner. This training was one in a series of SAMZ trainings that took place virtually instead of in person, due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Virtual machines for all participants were made possible with the support of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI). The twenty participants included individuals from Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA), Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales (IDEAM), Instituto de Manejo e Certificação Florestal e Agrícola (Imaflora), Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMbio), Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), Universidad del Rosario, Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais (IBAMA), and Instituto Socioambiental (ISA). The technical skills developed in this workshop will feed directly into the forest monitoring efforts of SAMZ partner organizations to improve forest degradation monitoring across the region.

SERVIR-MEKONG Activities Highlighted by United States Ambassador to Thailand

On April 25, 2020 U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, Michael George DeSombre, wrote an op-ed in which he mentioned NASA and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) activities through SERVIR-Mekong that bring publicly available satellite data to the region to help local governments address challenges of drought, flooding and transboundary water resources. He particularly highlighted the Drought Early Warning portal that SERVIR-Mekong has co-developed with the Mekong River Commission (MRC). This online portal, launched in March, uses drought and crop yield forecasts generated by the Regional Hydrologic Extremes Assessment System (RHEAS) modeling framework. The SERVIR Science Coordination Office at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center is leading the development of the RHEAS framework, along with scientists at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The MRC distributes weekly and monthly Drought Early Warning bulletins through the portal, and monitors drought conditions for the countries in the Lower Mekong Basin as part of their drought management strategy.

The article is available at

Earlier the same week, the Michael Barkin, Senior Policy Advisor to US Mission to the UN, mentioned SERVIR in talking points for the April 22, 2020 United Nations Security Council video teleconference on Climate Change and Security Risks, as an example of the United States working with global partners to share knowledge, data and tools.

Scroll to Top