Weight-Watching from Space – Tracking Changes in Earth’s Surface Water with GRACE & GRACE-FO with Felix Landerer (JPL, USA)

Earth’s distribution of water – in the form of ice, snow, soil moisture, groundwater, as well as lake and sea levels – is undergoing profound changes as the climate changes over seasons to decades. The original Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, launched in early 2002, has provided a unique and valuable data record to monitor and study changes in our global water cycle, and allowed precise determination of sea-level rise, polar ice-cap mass loss in Greenland and Antarctica, and large-scale water storage changes over land. By measuring small month-to-month changes in Earth’s gravity field, these observations provide a unique window into Earth’s evolving climate and water stores, and a glimpse into possible future impacts. The twin satellites of the GRACE Follow-On mission, in operation since June 2018, continue and extend the groundbreaking mass change data record from GRACE. In this presentation, I will describe the fascinating technology of contemporary gravity measurements from space, and present break-through science discoveries and every-day applications from the two GRACE missions, such as the variable ice mass loss over Greenland and Antarctica, and the emerging long-term trends of land water storage that impact water availability.

Felix Landerer is the Project Scientist for the joint NASA-GFZ GRACE Follow-On satellite mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He earned a degree in Geophysics from the University of Kiel, a doctorate in Physical Oceanography from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg (Germany), and was a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at JPL from 2008 to 2010. He explores and studies Earth’s constantly changing hydrosphere by using data from geodetic satellite observations (e.g., from GRACE(-FO) and ocean altimeters), and geodetic ground observations (e.g., GPS, tide gauges) to understand global and regional sea level variations and underlying processes, and to provide relevant data to track water redistribution and availability (e.g., ice mass, aquifer storage) in a changing climate. 

Seminar was recorded on February 25, 2021