Climate Variability and Change Focus Area
CVC measures and models Earth’s dynamic systems and how they change over time.
The Climate Variability and Change focus area (CVC) supports research to better understand the overall state of Earth’s climate and the physical processes that affect it. CVC supports focused and interdisciplinary research to better describe, understand, and predict the ways in which Earth’s ocean, atmosphere, land, and ice will interact and influence Earth’s climate over a wide range of timescales. To do this, CVC supports the development of climate data sets and computer models that leverage observations from relevant NASA and non-NASA platforms, including satellites, aircraft, and ships. These datasets include observations of sea surface height, temperature, and salinity; ocean currents and vector winds; sea ice extent and thickness; glacial topography, motion, and mass change; aerosol and cloud processes that affect Earth’s energy balance; and more. Through this work, CVC hopes to better predict changes in the Earth’s climate from sub-seasonal to multi-decadal time scales.
CVC Research Questions
CVC addresses the following overarching questions:
How can predictions of climate variability and change be improved?
What is the role of atmospheric composition and clouds in the climate system?
What changes are occurring in the mass and extent of Earth’s ice cover?
How does global ocean circulation vary on a variety of temporal and spatial scales in response to climate variations?
How is global sea level impacted by natural variability and human-induced changes in the Earth system, and how can we predict those changes?
CVC Associated Missions
The table below lists all the Earth missions that are relevant to the Climate Variability and Change focus area in all phases.
Learn more about CVC
Climate Variability and Change is split into three different research programs that help focus and advance our understanding of the Earth:
Cryospheric Sciences Program
The Cryospheric Sciences Program supports basic research into the Earth’s sea- and land-based ice to understand how and why it is changing. Additionally, the program seeks to understand how changes in polar ice will affect global climate, sea level, and the polar environment. Supported studies use space-based, aircraft-based, and other remote sensing techniques to understand the factors controlling the retreat (shrinking) and advance (growth) of the world’s sea- and land-based ice and how polar ice interacts with the ocean, atmosphere, solid Earth, and solar radiation. The program sponsors several polar initiatives designed to encourage an integrated approach to cryospheric science problems, such as the annual PARCA meeting, NASA-ESA Snow on Sea Ice (NESOSI) initiative, and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) meeting.
Modeling, Analysis, and Prediction Program
The MAP program supports Earth system modeling and data assimilation to simulate past and present conditions on Earth and help predict them in the future. These models examine all aspects of the Earth at a variety of timescales, including changes that occur over days to months and decades to hundreds of years. The program uses observations from satellites, aircraft, and ground-based instruments and inputs them into models to better understand the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, geosphere, and cryosphere as individual and integrated systems. This approach helps validate satellite observations and improves current Earth system models. MAP supports this work through both directed funding of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Model E and the Global Modeling and Assimiliation Office’s (GMAO) GEOS 5 models, as well as through annual competed grants as a part of the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) solicitations.
Physical Oceanography Program
The Physical Oceanography Program supports research on the ocean’s role in climate variability. The ocean modulates our planet’s climate and weather by storing and transporting large quantities of heat, water, moisture, and carbon dioxide, as well as exchanging these elements with the atmosphere. This continuous exchange influences climate and weather patterns over the globe by releasing the heat that fuels the overlying atmospheric circulation, aerosols that impact cloud cover, and moisture that determines the fate of the global hydrological cycle, and by absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide for millennia. NASA’s Physical Oceanography program supports basic research and analysis activities that enable development of NASA’s current and future physical oceanography satellite missions and the scientific interpretation of data from them.
CVC News and Information
Earth Science News | May 2, 2019
Scientist Lia Siegelman is using a surprising data source to study the ocean around Antarctica — one that has flippers and bears a passing resemblance to Jabba the Hut.
Earth Observatory | April 29, 2019
It won’t be until summertime that a significant amount of melt shows up across the Greenland Ice Sheet. For now, most indications of meltwater ponds and lakes are leftovers from past seasons that have since refrozen.
Earth Observatory | April 9, 2019
Most people will never see Pine Island Glacier in person. Located near the base of the Antarctic Peninsula—the “thumb” of the continent—the glacier lies more than 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) from the tip of South America.
CVC for Scientists
Scientific Meetings and Conferences
Ocean Surface Topography Science Team Meeting
21-25 October 2019
ICESat 2 Science Team Meeting
29-31 October 2019
Research and Funding Opportunities
Solicited program elements relevant to CVC are publicized through the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) NASA Research Announcements (NRAs) on the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES) website. Past, open, and future solicitations can be searched and viewed on NSPIRES.
2018/2019 solicitations of interest to the Climate Variability and Change community:
- A.9 Physical Oceanography 2019
- A.10 Ocean Salinity Science Team
- A.11 Sea Level Change Science Team
- A.12 Surface Water and Ocean Topography Science Team
- A.13 Surface Water and Ocean Topography Calibration and Validation Field Campaigns
- A.16 Modeling, Analysis, and Prediction
- A.34 ICESat-2 Research
NASA Research Resources, Associated Programs, and Partnerships
Access NASA data related to Climate Variability and Change and learn more about center-level CVC programs and partnerships at the links below:
- Ames Research Center Earth Science Division, Global Ecosystem Research
- Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO)
- Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Climate Impacts Research Group
- GISS, Global Climate Modeling Group
- Goddard Space Flight Center, Climate Lab Research
- GSFC, Cryospheric Sciences Lab
- Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Center for Climate Sciences
- JPL, Cryospheric Sciences Group
- JPL, Ocean Circulation Group
- JPL, Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean
- Langley Science Directorate, Climate and Weather Research
- Marshall Space Flight Center, Global Hydrology and Climate Center
- Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR)
- Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS)
- Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
- Earth System Prediction Capability (ESPC)
- Group on Earth Observations (GEO)
- Interagency Ocean Observation Committee (IOOC)
- Interagency on Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC)
- NOAA Climate Observing System Council
- U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGRCP)
Cryospheric Sciences Program