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JPL Scientist Makes Presentation at Vatican

January 05, 2006|By Mary O'Keefe

JPL scientist Moustafa Chahine was one of 15 international participants invited to speak at last month's meeting at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences' Working Group on Water and the Environment.

Chahine is the team leader for Atmospheric Infrared Sounder. AIRS is a spacecraft that is able to look through cloud cover to reveal 3-D data of a storms water vapor content.

"Of all the gases water vapor is more dominant in global warming," Chahine said.

He spent five days within the Vatican City as part of the conference.

"It was a unique experience," Chahine said. "We stayed in the building [Domus Sanctae Marthae] built by Pope John for visiting cardinals."

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He added that the room was sparse but nice.

Chahine was invited to explain how spacecrafts can help in predicting the weather and weather patterns. His speech was titled "NASA's Measurements of Water from Space." It focused on results NASA has obtained through the use of spacecrafts such as AIRS.

"The goal of the meeting was to find how well we can predict the amounts of fresh water we are going to have for the people of the world and what are the techniques we are using to get this information," Chahine said.

Chahine saw the Vatican's interested in scientific development of weather prediction as a way for Catholic Church officials to be involved with the world. No one can predict rainfall weeks or months in advance, but JPL and its partners are developing new ways not only to predict storms but droughts and rainfall in all regions of the world. JPL is also looking at ground water supplies as well.

"We are extracting more underground water than nature can replenish," Chahine warns.

He thinks that the Vatican is not unlike many who want to know what the future holds for our planet and what methods are being used in the study of our fresh water supply.

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