What Impact Do NASA’s PREFIRE Satellites Have on Climate Models?

What Impact Do NASA's PREFIRE Satellites Have on Climate Models?

NASA’s PREFIRE Satellites: Unlocking the Enigma of Polar Heat Loss

Understanding the Polar Heat Exchange

The polar regions play a crucial role in regulating Earth’s climate. They absorb heat at the tropics and radiate it back into space, influencing global weather patterns and sea levels. However, scientists lack a comprehensive understanding of how heat loss occurs in these remote areas. NASA’s recently launched Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-Infrared Experiment (PREFIRE) aims to bridge this knowledge gap.

PREFIRE’s Role in Climate Models

PREFIRE will deploy twin CubeSats in asynchronous, near-polar orbits. These satellites will carry thermal infrared spectrometers, allowing them to measure the far-infrared energy radiated from Earth’s surface and atmosphere into space. Up to 60% of this heat emission occurs at wavelengths longer than 15 micrometres, a range not currently covered by existing satellite observations.

Data collected by PREFIRE will provide valuable insights into the greenhouse effect at the poles. Researchers will use this information to improve climate and ice models, leading to more accurate predictions of storm severity, frequency, coastal erosion, and flooding. By understanding the heat exchange processes in the polar regions, scientists can better estimate sea level rise and ice cover changes in a warming world.

Key Points:

  • PREFIRE measures far-infrared heat emissions from the Arctic and Antarctic.
  • It will improve understanding of the polar greenhouse effect and heat loss mechanisms.
  • Data will enhance climate models, leading to more precise weather and sea level rise forecasts.

Benefits to Science and Society

PREFIRE’s findings will contribute to our understanding of the complex interactions between the polar regions and the global climate system. This knowledge will inform decision-making on climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Additionally, the publicly accessible data from PREFIRE will enable scientists and the public to explore the impact of polar heat loss on Earth’s environment.

Collaboration and Management

The PREFIRE mission is a collaborative effort involving NASA, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Blue Canyon Technologies, and Rocket Lab. NASA manages the mission and provides the spectrometers, while the University of Wisconsin-Madison will process the data. Blue Canyon Technologies built the CubeSats, and Rocket Lab will handle the spacecraft launch.


NASA’s PREFIRE mission represents a significant step forward in understanding the polar regions’ role in regulating Earth’s climate. By measuring heat emissions and improving climate models, PREFIRE will provide invaluable data for scientists and policymakers alike, helping us to prepare for the challenges of a changing planet.

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *