Water and Energy Cycle Focus Area

WEC supports focused and crosscutting research to improve our understanding of the global water cycle.

The Water and Energy Cycle focus area (WEC) works to define, quantify, and model the different components of the water cycle that take place on land, including precipitation, snow, soil moisture, surface water and groundwater, and their interactions with other Earth systems. This research helps improve our understanding of how much water exists on Earth, how it’s changing over time, and what quality it’s in. It also helps us understand the energy that is transferred when water moves around the Earth and changes phase from liquid water to water vapor to snow. WEC uses observations from satellites and aircraft to help inform this research, and they partner with other Research and Analysis Program focus areas on crosscutting topics like ocean dynamics and cloud formation.

WEC Research Questions

WEC research addresses the following overarching questions:

Water vapor data of Earth
How will water cycle dynamics change in the future?
Satellite image of Lake Powell
How are global precipitation, evaporation, and the cycling of water changing
Satellite image of Africa
What are the effects of clouds and surface hydrologic processes on Earth’s climate?
Drought map of the state of California, colors indicate severity of drought
How are variations in local weather, precipitation, and water resources related to global climate variation?

WEC Associated Missions

The table below lists the missions, campaigns, and instruments relevant to the Global Water and Energy Cycle focus area in all phases of operation. To learn more about the meaning of mission phases, please click here.

Operating Satellites

Operating Airborne

Satellites in Development

Satellites Under Study

Past Satellites

Past Airborne

Learn more about WEC

Research Programs

Terrestrial Hydrology Program

The Terrestrial Hydrology Program (THP) helps develop new remote sensing techniques to improve global water measurements that take into account natural variations in the water cycle and water resource management. These measurements help us understand how much water is stored on land and where, as well as how global water interacts with the atmosphere. Particular emphasis is placed on the application of satellite-based data for characterizing and predicting the terrestrially linked components of the water cycle and the dynamics of large-scale river basins. This research will help improve future measurements and inform future satellite and field experiments.

Research Initiatives

NASA Energy and Water Cycle Study

The NASA Energy and Water Cycle Study (NEWS) seeks to improve our ability to predict how the global water and energy cycle behaves. NEWS supports advanced global observation, data assimilation, and improved representation of the water and energy cycles in climate models, better prediction systems to more effectively quantity the hydrologic consequences of climate change, and produce useful seasonal and longer-range hydrologic predictions.

WEC for Scientists

Scientific Meetings and Conferences

There are no meetings or conferences planned at this time.

Research and Funding Opportunities

Solicited program elements relevant to WEC 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.

Current Solicitations of interest to the WEC Community:

NASA Research Resources, Associated Programs, and Partnerships

Access NASA data related to Water and Energy Cycle and learn more about center-level WEC programs and partnerships at the links below:

Guiding and Planning Documents

Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs)

NASA Center Programs

Interagency and International Partnerships

Contact WEC

Craig Ferguson
Global Water and Energy Cycle Focus Area Lead
Terrestrial Hydrology Program

Jared Entin
Global Water and Energy Cycle Focus Area
Terrestrial Hydrology Program
SMAP Program Scientist Contact