PLASMA 6 teaser article
interview Judit Agui
Dr Josh Willis is an oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is currently studying sea level rise and measuring ocean temperatures to assess the speed of sea levels rising. The PLASMA team met Josh at NASA’s JPL to chat about his work, the importance of public awareness about the issue and his acting career!
PLASMA: What got you interested in oceanography?
Josh Willis: I became interested in oceanography when I failed out of Physics, actually. From a young age, I wanted to be a scientist, I wanted to study the World and learn things about it that nobody knew before, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to study! I liked Physics and I started doing Physics but when I finally started looking for something to really study in Physics I didn’t find anything I liked. I didn’t do that well in graduate school. At the time, I was at the University of California in San Diego and they happened to be home to one of the World’s foremost oceanographic institutes, called the Scripps institute of oceanography. I found an advisor there who was studying oceans and climate. His name was Dean Roemmich and he taught me that there were more interesting Physics problems than I could find in the physics department. The Physics of what’s happening with our planet. Things like how sea level is rising, what’s causing it and how the climate is changing are all some of the most important Physics problems of our day. So, I found something that I loved to study and have been an oceanographer ever since!
Josh Willis, oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory _ pic Clemens Fantur, PLASMA 6
PLASMA: Can you tell us a bit more about your work at NASA?
Josh Willis: I’m the lead NASA scientist for the missions that measure sea level rise. The Jason missions. Jason-3 is currently flying and collecting data and we are gonna launch Jason CS in November of 2020. These missions tell us about the oceans, but also about global sea level rise. We can look down at the Earth from space and measure how fast the Planet is changing because of human-caused interference with the climate. The way we see that is by watching the sea levels rise globally. These tools and satellites we have they really are the most powerful tools for measuring humans’ footprint on the planet.
The satellite flies around space and it shoots a radar wave down. It measures how long it takes to go down and come back. By measuring that you can figure out how far away the water is. If you know the position of the satellite very accurately, you can figure out the height of the ocean. Whenever water warms up, it expands and it takes up more space. A warm column of water is taller than a cold column of water. We measure that height change and that tells us about things in the ocean like how warm it is, how the currents move around, the ocean currents and the sea level rise.
full article in PLASMA 6
PLASMA 6 turns its gaze to our one and only pale blue dot. This issue’s Earth-centric focus is highlighted by articles featuring everything from environmental issues to sustainable technologies, and ultimately sheds a new light on the meaning of our space endeavors.
2020 was a challenging year for every small business, and the same for PLASMA. Now more than ever we need the support of our community to get PLASMA 6 printed. You have several options to support our new issue:
At PLASMA, we always wonder, if extraterrestrials ever payed us a visit, what would we want to show them? We’d like to make a good impression, right? Our best answer is this: that despite humanity’s many flaws our curiosity and creativity always drives our inspiration for a better tomorrow. We believe that the path into the future lies not in science or art, but in both.
To our astonishment, this year’s Earthly theme has been more on point than ever before. Issues spanning the climate crisis, world pandemic, and racial inequity has forced us to reflect with more intensity. Who are we as individuals? As a society? And what does this mean in the context of space exploration? The stars are gazing upon us as we take note of ourselves. We’ve made some great technological advances! But is that enough? PLASMA 6 tackles these questions, providing the reader with a more introspective and human issue.
“PLASMA 6”, 22 x 28 cm, ca. 140 Pages, English, Present Books 2020