NASA satellites to aid ASU researchers in California drought study

January 18, 2017

Water management and drought forecasting traditionally meant physically measuring surface water or groundwater, but Arizona State University researchers are tackling the problem in a new way: from space. 

“Ironically,” said principal investigator Susanna Werth, “we will be going several hundreds of kilometers away from Earth in order to see what is going on under the surface.” GRACE-FO Satellites Artist rendition of the GRACE-FO satellites flying over North America. GFO satellite image credit: AEI/Daniel Schütze; background credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/SuomiNPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring Download Full Image

Werth and Manoochehr Shirzaei of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE), together with Yuning Fu of Bowling Green State University, have received a $550,000 grant from NASA’s Earth Surface and Interior focus area for a three-year study to use satellite data to more accurately measure water resources in California and predict future water availability. 

ASU’s involvement represents the latest from a university that has become known for ventures into space.

In this case, ASU researchers will analyze data from a mission known as GRACE and other satellites, but the school also has high-profile connections with NASA that include Psyche, a first-time attempt to explore a metal asteroid; LunaH-Map, which aims to find water on the moon; and OSIRIS-Rex, which seeks to collect a sample from the asteroid Bennu and bring it back to Earth.

While past studies on water resources and drought have focused mainly on low-resolution surface or groundwater measurements, this new study will combine strengths of several Earth remote-sensing techniques, including satellite gravimetry and satellite radar interferometry, to help provide faster, more continuous, more consistent, higher-resolution and cheaper water-related surface and subsurface observations. 

Gravimetry, which measures changes to the gravity field caused by water mass budget variations through the Earth’s hydrological cycle, will be provided by the twin-satellite mission Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). The researchers also hope to collect data from GRACE-FO, which is expected to launch at the end of 2017.  

Changes in the hydrological cycle also lead to height changes of the land surface, which can be measured using space-borne Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), a method that uses radar images to generate maps of surface deformation using differences in the phase of waves returning to the satellite. 

“This will be a huge leap forward in understanding the dynamics of water resources,” said Werth, who also holds a joint appointment with ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “Our hopes are that it will enable authorities and decision makers to accurately manage water resources and plan for future water allocations.”

While California was chosen because of its severe drought and water management crisis, the team hopes to expand the study to the southwestern U.S., including Arizona.

“The whole region is affected by a long-term drought,” Werth said, “with differences in severity, climate conditions, groundwater geology and water management approaches.”

The results of this research will contribute significantly to ASU’s Future H2O program, which seeks to face the challenges of climate-change water insecurity through wiser design principles, new data and algorithms for better water governance and business outcomes, and scalable nature-inspired technologies. 

NASA’s Earth Surface and Interior focus area (ESI) supports research and analysis of solid-Earth processes and properties from crust to core. ESI uses NASA’s unique capabilities and observational resources to better understand core, mantle and lithospheric structure and dynamics, and interactions between these processes and Earth’s fluid envelopes.

ESI studies provide the basic understanding and data products needed to inform the assessment, mitigation and forecasting of the natural hazards, including phenomena such as earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and volcanic eruptions. They also use time-variable signals associated with other natural and human-caused disturbances to the Earth system, including those associated with the production and management of natural resources.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration


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NFL turns to Sun Devil for Super Bowl paint job

ASU's field painter is off to paint the Super Bowl field — for the 22nd time.
January 18, 2017

ASU facilities manager has painted the field for every NFL title game since 1996

With a little paint and a lot of footsteps, Peter Wozniak transforms a patch of green grass into a maroon-and-gold emblem that incites thousands of football fans.

Wozniak is in charge of painting the field at Sun Devil Stadium — a job he has done since he was student worker in the late 1980s.

And while creating 70-foot pitchforks is still a joy, he has been gratified to have his work displayed on the biggest football stage of all — the Super Bowl.

Wozniak leaves this week to begin painting the field at NRG Stadium in Houston for the Super Bowl, which will be his 22nd time working the big game. His efforts will be seen by more than 160 million people around the world when the game is broadcast Feb. 5.

Wozniak, the athletic facilities maintenance manager at ASU, has painted the field for every NFL championship since the 1996 Super BowlThe Cowboys beat the Steelers 27-17, and Diana Ross performed at halftime., which was held at Sun Devil Stadium. Brian Johnson, ASU’s athletic grounds facilities manager, has worked with Wozniak at most of them.

The 1996 Super Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe was the first time Pete Wozniak painted a Super Bowl field, and he has been doing it ever since. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals

“Super Bowl 30 at Sun Devil Stadium was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I was fortunate to be asked to do more,” Wozniak said. “We just keep the work ethic and don’t take it for granted. It’s great to represent ASU nationally.”

It takes three weeks for Wozniak and his team to organize the three trailers full of equipment and then paint not only the main field, but all the practice fields and rain covers as well as sites for the NFL Experience, the fan festival held during Super Bowl week. They typically work 70-hour weeks leading up to the game, and have to accommodate many hours of rehearsals by the halftime performers.

“They actually have 30 to 40 hours during game week doing their rehearsal, while each team only gets one hour the day before the game,” Wozniak said. “It’s kind of ironic. You’re there to play the game, but the halftime is its own event.”

Weather is sometimes a challenge. Wozniak’s team had to deal with snowy conditions at the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

“We worked on the end zones in big heated tents,” he said. “We had to bring our paint machines into the tents because the paint was freezing. We blew and shoveled and plowed the snow so they could practice.”

The cold wasn’t unfamiliar, as Wozniak is originally from New York, transferring to ASU as a student in 1986.

“I signed on to work T-shirt security. And I was looking for more work, and I got more hours to do this,” he said of field painting. “It was a fun job, and you could see the results of your work every day.”

He stayed on after graduating, and now painting the field is a tiny — but glamorous — part of what he does. 

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

“Right now, I have students packing clay at the softball field, but that’s not as exciting as painting the football field,” said Wozniak, who is in charge of the stadium, the practice fields and the soccer, lacrosse, wrestling and softball facilities.

The summer after he painted the field for the 1996 Super Bowl, the NFL asked Wozniak to go to Monterrey, Mexico, to do the field for a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys. That led to jobs at the subsequent Super Bowls and dozens more international games. He has traveled to Mexico City, Tokyo, Sydney and London.

Not too much has changed over the years.

“The football field still has white lines, numbers, hash marks. We do more branding now,” said Wozniak, who grids out the end-zone designs on graph paper.

“We’ve learned ways to make our jobs easier — what type of paint to use, painting tips and the sequence of events, so we’re more efficient,” he said.

“It requires a steady hand and patience. You can’t be rushed when you do it.”

Wozniak said that because he has more people and more time, he’ll get to be more precise with the Super Bowl field design. But otherwise, it’s similar to painting the pitchfork at Sun Devil Stadium.

“With either one, we want it to be perfect.”

Top photo: Pete Wozniak paints the pitchfork on the field at Sun Devil Stadium. He painted the field when the Super Bowl was held at Sun Devil Stadium in 1996 and has done the Super Bowl fields every year since. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News