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NASA Perspectives

by Kevin Reach (NASA)

Jun 5, 2023

A word from the Deputy Program Scientist for the Earth Surface and Interior Program at NASA

Subduction zones are one of the foundational solid Earth processes and NASA has a long history of advancing and enabling subduction zone science. The 2002 Solid Earth Science Working Group Report recognized the importance of understanding subduction zone and the hazards that they pose, which was reaffirmed in the 2016 Challenges and Opportunities for Research in ESI. The challenge of subduction zone science and the goal of characterizing and forecasting their myriad of geohazards and cascading hazards is that it truly requires an integrated multidiscipline approach.  

NASA’s new Earth System Observatory (ESO) represents an opportunity to evaluate subduction zones through a constellation of satellites designed to better understand the interconnectivity and dependences of different Earth processes.  NASA plans to launch a set of ESO missions in the late 2020s that will focus on: Cloud, Convection, and Precipitation; Aerosols; Mass Change; Surface Deformation and Change (SDC); and Surface Biology and Geology. Many, if not all, of these missions will provide data that will be directly applicable to natural hazards and processes that occur in subduction zones.

NISAR (NASA-ISRO SAR) will be the first ESO mission to launch in early 2024 with the SDC (InSAR) mission in the early 2030s as the last ESO mission.  This means that there will likely be NASA SAR/InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) data for the next 15 or so years. Both NISAR and SDC will support an enable SZ4D science. Subduction zones are an excellent natural laboratory to study earthquakes, volcanic deformation, volcanic glaciers, and vertical land motion along the coast, and all these topics will be prominent study areas for both of these missions. 

SBG (Surface Biology and Geology) is a SWIR (shortwave infrared) and TIR (thermal Infrared) mission that will be launched after NISAR. SBG has several focuses including: surface geology, terrestrial vegetation, inland and coastal aquatic ecosystems, snow and ice accumulation, and managing agriculture and natural habitats. SBG’s geology focus strongly contributes to active surface changes related to volcanic eruptions, landslides, earthquakes, evolving landscapes, and the risks related to these hazards, all of which are particularly relevant to SZ4D. 

Finally, I want to call your attention to a few online resources that should help all of you become more aware of opportunities to apply remote sensing to SZ4D science. First, all NASA solicitations are released under the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences program (ROSES). By searching for NASA ROSES 2023 you can access a table ( that has links to current NASA solicitations and proposal information. Many of these solicitations have deadlines that are quickly approaching for 2023, but will likely be made available again in 2024 or a later year. Second, NASA data are all openly available and, as part of our Transform to Open Science (TOPS) initiative, many algorithms for processing these data are also openly accessible. A good site for finding Earth science related data sets is the NASA Earth data search (

This should be your first stop when trying to access NASA remote sensing data.

This should give you an idea of what’s coming from NASA, what’s available, and how it can be used in SZ4D. We hope to see many of you becoming more involved in the Earth Surface and Interior (ESI) community in the future.

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