Sushel Unninayar, Senior Research Scientist

Sushel Unninayar

Contact Info

NASA Goddard
Bldg 32, S131-13
Greenbelt, MD 20771
Phone: 301-286-2757

Research Interests

Global Water Cycle Observations--from decisions to solutions
Global Earth System Observations and Modeling
Global water and Energy Cycles
Remote Sensing for monitoring Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Water-Energy Food Nexus
Cognitive Intelligence Expert Systems for Observations-Science-Application-Decision making


Dr. Sushel Unninayar is a Senior Scientist at NASA/GSFC with GESTAR/MSU. His work supports NASA HQ in a variety of NASA/SMD’s internal, interagency, and international programs, such as the NASA Energy and Water Cycle Studies (NEWS) program, Global Change Research Program (GCRP), the Global Water Cycle Program (GWC), the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) that coordinates the Global Observing System of Systems (GEOSS), the GEOSS Integrated Global Water Cycle Observations (IGWCO) Community of Practice (CoP), international organizations (e.g., World Meteorological Organization, WMO; United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP), the science assessments of the IPCC, the international WCRP/GEWEX program, and the activities of the Committee on Earth Observations Satellites (CEOS) among others. He has been associated with NASA-HQ and GSFC in various capacities for over 20 years.

He is a lead contributor to the development and promotion of the use of space-based remote sensing earth observations for monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. In 2015, as a member of the EO, Novel Data and Data Assimilation Task Team, he co-authored a position paper for the WHO-HABITAT-UNEP project on the monitoring of indicators for sustainable development goals. He is a lead author and contributor to the GEOSS Global Water Strategy for the next decade (2015 – 2025) “From Observations to Decisions.” In this report, he developed frameworks for and definitions of Essential Water Variables(EWVs), and the observational needs for monitoring and water cycle extremes. He has given several invited presentations on these themes at national and international meetings. He was the NASA appointed expert analyst for the international GEOSS Water SBA (Societal benefits Area) Review Report (2010) that consolidated user requirements across over 75 sectors. He has been an invited IPCC expert reviewer (2012) for the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (IPCC WGI AR5), an invited expert reviewer (2013) of IPCC/WGII-AR5 (Impact, Adaptation, and Vulnerability), and an expert reviewer (2014) of the IPCC Synthesis and Assessment Report (SAR). Dr. Unninayar has made significant contributions (lead author) to major publications such as “Monitoring, Observations and Remote Sensing—Global Dimensions,” in the Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences (Elsevier, 2015), and on “Earth Observing Systems” in the Encyclopedia on Global Change (Wiley, 2002). He has been the primary convener, and co-chair of major national and international and national conferences. In 2000 to approximately 2010, he was the coordinator of the interagency Global Water Cycle Working Group of the Global Change Research Program (GCRP). Prior to that he was the coordinator for the U.S. Secretariat for International Global observing Systems Program, sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP), and coordinator of NASA’s initiative leading to the “The Green House Effect Detection Experiment (GEDEX).”

Prior to working at NASA/GSFC, Dr. Unninayar was seconded by NASA in 1994 as Director of Research at the UN Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR) in Geneva. In 1994 - 1995, he was involved in the early planning of the UCAR-GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations for the benefit of the Environment). As Senior Scientist at NASA Headquarters (1991 -1993), he developed plans for NASA’s initiative on “Modeling the Earth System in the Mission to Planet Earth Era.” As Program Director at NSF (1988-1991), he coordinated the interagency development and drafting of the first strategic plan for the GCRP. Prior to NSF, from 1981-1988, he was Chief of Division, World Climate Data Program, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Geneva, Switzerland from 1981-1987 where he launched several international projects, including the Global Climate System Monitoring (CSM) project, a collaborative program between the WMO and UNEP. In 1978-1981, he was the Deputy Director for the regional field campaigns of the international Global Atmospheric Research Program (GARP), at NCAR with operations centers in Dhahran, (Saudi Arabia), Bombay and Calcutta (India) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).

Dr. Unninayar received both his M.S (Electrical Engineering) and his Ph.D (Meteorology) at the University of Hawaii. He received his B. Technology, Hons. (Electrical Engineering) at I.I.T. Powaii, and also A.M.I.E. E. (I.E.E., London). He has over 100 publications and reports.