The research focus area known as Atmospheric Composition is focused on studying changes in the Earth's atmospheric chemistry, especially over time. The research is specifically geared toward creating a better understanding of the following four science areas: the changes in atmospheric composition and the timescales over which they occur, the forcings (man-made and natural) that drive the changes, the reaction of trace components in the atmosphere to global environment change and the resulting effects on the climate, the effects of global atmospheric chemical and climate changes, and air quality.
The relationship between our atmosphere and ground emissions presents several important environmental issues. These include global ozone depletion and recovery and the effect it has on ultraviolet radiation, radioactive gasses affecting our climate, and global air quality. NASA is in the unique position to observe and gather data for research in these areas from space. The Earth Observing System satellite, Terra, is the first to offer integrated measurements of the Earth's processes.
Studying these areas leads to direct society impact, such as daily air quality ratings, emissions standards, and other policies that protect planet Earth. The first weather satellite expanded the possibilities of predicting tomorrow's forecast. With new observation missions (like the Earth Observing System), data gathering, and modeling we can improve prediction capabilities even more to show us how the Earth's atmosphere is changing in relation to the Earth system. Accurately predicting changes in ozone, air quality and climate help us to know how humans affect our home planet, and how we can better protect it.