NASA, Google, and Yiyun Kang Showcase Water Cycle in New Interactive Experience

NASA and Google have collaborated with artist Yiyun Kang to create an innovative digital experience titled “A Passage of Water.” This interactive project serves as a profound exploration of global freshwater resources, utilizing data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites and new high-resolution data from the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission. The objective is to illustrate the intricate impact of climate change on Earth’s water cycle.

Scheduled for online release on November 30, just ahead of the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 28) in Dubai, the digital version of “A Passage of Water” is complemented by a physical installation in the Blue Zone at COP 28, hosted by Google.

Kate Calvin, NASA’s chief scientist and senior climate advisor, emphasized NASA’s commitment to providing comprehensive research about our home planet. She sees the installation of ‘A Passage of Water’ as a unique and digestible means to convey critical information about the connection between climate change and Earth’s water cycle.

For over six decades, NASA has been diligently collecting data on Earth’s land, water, air, and climate. This data serves as the foundation to inform decision-makers on strategies to mitigate, adapt, and respond to climate change.

As importantly, all of NASA’s Earth science data is accessible to scientists and the public through various channels. Scientists have created numerous scientific papers and presentations representing an improved understanding of the water cycle’s relation with climate change. NASA and ESA made these discoveries possible through Earth-observation satellites like GRACE and SWOT. The below video demonstrates an improved understanding of cloud physics, for instance.

Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, underscores the significance of “A Passage of Water” in highlighting the public availability of SWOT data and other NASA Earth science data. This endeavor seeks to tell meaningful stories, improve awareness, and empower individuals who must make real decisions in their homes, businesses, and communities.

The collaboration between NASA and the French space agency CNES has birthed SWOT, a mission that measures the height of nearly all water on Earth’s surface, providing an unprecedented and detailed view of the planet’s freshwater bodies. SWOT yields insights into how the ocean influences climate change and how a warming world impacts lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

Ben Hamlington, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, highlights the transformative potential of SWOT, considering the detailed information it provides about the world’s oceans and freshwater. The project is seen as a game-changer, with ongoing excitement about the wealth of data this satellite is expected to deliver. See more about the SWOT mission in the below video.

The Google project, “A Passage of Water,” also integrates data from the GRACE and GRACE Follow-On (GRACE-FO) missions. The former, a collaborative effort between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), tracked localized changes to Earth’s mass distribution from 2002 to 2017. The latter, a collaboration between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), came online in 2018 and continues to monitor changes in ice sheets, glaciers, water storage, large lakes and rivers, sea level, and ocean currents.

“A Passage of Water” stands as the latest digital experience arising from NASA’s Space Act Agreement with Google. The resulting content aims to be widely available to the public free of charge on Google’s web platforms. This collaboration is part of a six-project agreement series that seeks to share NASA’s content with audiences in innovative and engaging ways.

Previous collaborations between NASA and Google include a Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab and the use of machine learning to analyze an archive of NASA’s most famous historical photographs, as seen in the two videos below.

The latest collaboration between NASA and Google, “A Passage of Water,” represents a fusion of scientific inquiry, artistic expression, and technological innovation. Through projects like these, the partners aim to make Earth science data more accessible to the public, fostering a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between climate change and Earth’s water cycle. The intersection of artistry, technology, and scientific data emerges as a powerful tool for enhancing public understanding and inspiring collective action in the face of climate challenges.