Image of Earth from space
Credit: NASA

Latest NASA mission key for climate

Climate physics
Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics

Oxford physicists are delighted to hear that NASA has confirmed its latest Earth science mission: Investigation of Convective Updrafts (INCUS). The mission will study the behaviour of tropical storms and thunderstorms, including their impacts on weather and climate models; three SmallSats, flying in tight coordination, are expected to launch in 2027.

INCUS was one of 12 proposals in response to NASA’s call for complete, space-based investigations to address important science questions and produce data of societal relevance within the Earth science field. Data gathered during the mission will help our understanding of extreme weather and its impact on climate models and so help to mitigate weather and climate effects on communities around the world.

Ambitious and critically necessary

The mission aims to directly address why convective storms, heavy precipitation, and clouds occur exactly when and where they form. The investigation stems from the 2017 Earth Science Decadal Survey by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which lays out ambitious, but critically necessary, research and observation guidance.

Professor Susan van den Heever at Colorado State University and Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford, is the principal investigator for INCUS and Professor Graeme Stephens, also a Visiting Professor at Oxford is a science team member.

Informing next-gen climate models

Professor Philip Stier, Head of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics at Oxford, is also on the mission’s science team: ‘Huge congratulations to our visiting professors Sue van den Heever and Graeme Stephens! This mission will be a real game-changer in our ability to understand the role of convective transport in the climate system – and will provide invaluable constraints for the next generation global cloud-resolving climate models that are now being developed.’