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NASA Sets the PACE for Advanced Studies of Earth's Ocean and Atmosphere
The Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission will deliver the most comprehensive look at global ocean color measurements in NASA's history. Not only will PACE monitor the health of our ocean, its science data will expand atmospheric studies by sensing our skies over an exceptionally broad spectrum of wavelengths.

Being built and tested at the Goddard Space Flight Center, PACE will expand our knowledge of key climate variables such as aerosol particles and clouds. It will extend NASA's long-term record of the phytoplankton pigment, chlorophyll, while providing new insights on ocean biodiversity.

Why Do We Need PACE?

Movement in the ocean is a complex interplay of currents and eddies. And high above earth's surface, satellite sensors specifically tuned to see colors of the ocean provide valuable information about ocean ecology and the cycling of carbon in our ocean.

Carbon exists in many forms: from invisible gases to living things. For centuries, burning of fossil fuels has moved hydrocarbons from deep underground to Earth’s atmosphere. The ocean absorbs this carbon dioxide gas, which is converted to living matter and oxygen by single-celled algae called phytoplankton. Phytoplankton contain a pigment, chlorophyll, that absorbs red and blue wavelengths of sunlight and reflects the green, giving the ocean a blue-green color.

Carbon cycle
The atmosphere and ocean are inextricably linked. Earth relies on atmospheric circulation and ocean currents to regulate the distribution of heat. Thus deciphering the ocean-atmosphere conversation is key to predicting the future of our climate.

The amount of sun's heat reaching the ocean surface is tied to clouds and aerosols, tiny airborne particles and liquids suspended in our atmosphere. On the other hand, the ocean itself can be a strong source of atmospheric aerosols, influencing climate though direct obstruction of sunlight as well as changes to clouds' reflective properties.

There are significant gaps in scientific understanding on how clouds are formed and behave in remote marine environments. This information is crucial because Earth's heat balance is dominated by clouds over the ocean.

The 2007 Report, Earth Science and Application from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade, called for "societal needs to guide scientific priorities more effectively."

In response, PACE Applications will partner with public and private organizations on ways to apply data from PACE and its scientific findings in their decision-making activities and services, helping to improve the quality of life and strengthen the economy.

Question mark
Here are a few of the science questions that PACE will help answer:
  • How is Earth changing and what are the consequences for life in our ocean?
  • How does the Earth system respond to natural and human-induced changes?
  • What are the consequences of changes in the Earth system for humans?
  • How well can we predict future changes to the Earth system?
  • How are ocean ecosystems changing?
  • How might changes to ocean ecosystems and biodiversity affect our planet?
  • How do tiny airborne particles and liquids – known as "aerosols" – influence the ocean?
  • What are the long-term changes in aerosol and cloud properties?
  • How are these properties related to variations in climate?


PACE will be NASA's most advanced global ocean color and aerosol mission to date

PACE will add to climate data records while unveiling new insights on life in our ocean

PACE will add value to our everyday lives (e.g., Harmful Algal Bloom forecasts)
Field Campaigns

Ship and airborne studies being conducted worldwide are setting the stage for PACE

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NASA studies the ocean and its role supporting life on Earth, providing ocean color, sea surface temperature and sea surface salinity data and images.


Your planet is changing, and we're on it. NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of Earth and improve lives.