2023 ASCEND to Feature NASA’s William H. Pickering Lecture Showcasing Climate Science Advances Written 5 October 2023



An illustration of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

October 5, 2023 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is pleased to announce the 2023 William H. Pickering Lecture, “Observing Earth’s Precious Water from Space,” which will showcase the advances in Earth’s climate science that are being made possible through the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) Mission. The lecture is the featured evening session, 1830 hrs PT, Tuesday, 24 October, during 2023 ASCEND at Caesars Forum, Las Vegas.

Registration for the 2023 ASCEND event is open now. Journalists from around the world are invited to cover 2023 ASCEND; press passes are available for credentialed media by request.

2023 William H. Pickering Lecture: “Observing Earth’s Precious Water from Space”

  • Lecturers: Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer, Ocean physics program manager, NASA Headquarters, and Parag Vaze, project manager, SWOT Mission, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Shiffer will describe the SWOT science, calibration, and validation efforts along with the applications potential that SWOT enables. Vaze will describe the challenges of the development, implementation, and operations of one of the most complex observing systems for observing Earth’s precious waters.
  • Tuesday, 24 October, 1830 hrs PT
  • This lecture will be delivered in person at 2023 ASCEND in Las Vegas and will be recorded and available on demand.

The 2023 William H. Pickering Lecture is about a space mission that will address some of Earth’s most pressing climate change questions of our time by informing decisions about our daily lives and livelihoods. The SWOT Mission was developed jointly by NASA and the French space agency, CNES, with contributions from the UK and Canadian space agencies. Using state-of-the-art “radar interferometry” technology, SWOT is measuring the elevation of water to observe millions of lakes and wetlands with surface areas 250 m2 and thousands of rivers whose width exceeds 100 m, while detecting ocean features with unprecedented resolution, accuracy, and spatial coverage. The primary science payload, a novel Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn), is the first in-flight demonstration of wide-swath (2, 50Km swaths) SAR interferometry for more accurate and comprehensive mapping of Earth’s ocean and surface water from space.

The SWOT Mission is expected to revolutionize hydrology and oceanography, providing a set of observations for nearly all surface waters on planet Earth, allowing scientists to determine changing volumes of water across the globe. SWOT will also significantly advance climate and ocean sciences by detecting ocean features with 10 times better resolution than present technologies. The higher resolution will reveal small-scale ocean features that contribute to the Earth’s fundamental cycles of heat, energy, carbon, moisture, and nutrients.

Measurements taken by SWOT are key to understanding surface water availability, informing water-resource management, preparing for important water-related hazards such as floods and droughts, improving ocean circulation forecasts, and benefiting ship and offshore commercial operations, along with coastal planning activities such as flood prediction.

Named for the former NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director William H. Pickering, the lectureship honors his initiation and leadership of America’s robotic scientific space program, from Explorer I in 1958 through the development of the Viking Mars orbiters and the Voyager outer planet and interstellar missions. 

AIAA Media Contact: Rebecca Gray, RebeccaG@AIAA.org, 804-397-5270 cell

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About AIAA
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries, and 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit www.aiaa.org, or follow AIAA on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.