New Zealand partners with NASA to collect climate change data

SOURCE: James Coleman/Unsplash
The mission involves Air New Zealand flights to collect data from the terrain below.

By U2B Staff 

Read all stories

The University of Auckland, New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, New Zealand Space Agency, and Air New Zealand have joined a partnership with NASA to collect climate change data via GPS signals. 

Part of NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satelite System (CYGNSS) mission, small satellites will be used to orbit above the tropics and use GPS signals to measure wind speed over the ocean.

This provides very useful data for scientists to gauge wind speed and understand hurricanes and tropical cyclones.  


Scientists involved in the project have also recently discovered that the CYGNSS satellites can also be used to collect valuable measurements over land. Data on soil moisture, flooding, and wetland and coastal environments can be collected through this project. 

“Partnering with New Zealand offers NASA and the CYGNSS team a unique opportunity to develop these secondary capabilities over land. Taken together over time, they’ll also have an important story to tell about the long-term impacts of climate change to these landscapes,” said CYGNSS programme scientist Gail Skofronick-Jackson. 

Climate Change Data
Satellites are used to further investigate climate change. Source: NASA/Unsplash.

NASA’s new partnership with New Zealand will involve the installation of newly-developed Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) reflectivity receivers on one of Air New Zealand’s Q300 domestic aircraft. 

As this aircraft travels across New Zealand, it will collect data from the land below its flight path. Regular overlaps with flight paths of the CYGNSS satellites during the aircraft’s flight will result in a substantial amount of climate change data collection for CYGNSS scientists to use to validate and improve their satellite observations.

Moreover, by examining New Zealand’s terrain, scientists will be able to draw comparisons with climate change data collected from similar terrains in other parts of the world. 

“As a result of this partnership, both Air New Zealand engineers and researchers across New Zealand will now have the opportunity to work with NASA on a world-leading environmental science mission,” said New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment General Manager of Science, Innovation and International Peter Crabtree.


The data collected throughout this project will be handled by the University of Auckland’s Science Payload Operation Centre which will begin operations and data collection in late 2020. 

“Over time, the data that will be collected by these receivers could form one of New Zealand’s largest bodies of long-term environmental data, and as such it represents a wide range of research opportunities,” said University of Auckland radar systems engineer and project lead Delwyn Moller. 

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand will be the first passenger airline to work with NASA in data collection for a science mission. 

“As an airline, we’re already seeing the impact of climate change, with flights impacted by volatile weather and storms. Climate change is our biggest sustainability challenge, so it’s incredible we can use our daily operations to enable this world-leading science,” said Air New Zealand Chief Operational Integrity and Standards Officer Captain David Morgan.