Monday, August 4, 2014

NASA Earth Observatory: New Studies Examine Climate/Vegetation Links

Two new spaceborne Earth-observing instruments will help scientists better understand how global forests and ecosystems are affected by changes in climate and land use change. 

This image of the Amazon rainforest is from a 2010 global map of the height of the world's forests based on multiple satellite datasets. 

Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

NASA has selected proposals for two new instruments, including one from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, that will observe changes in global vegetation from the International Space Station.

UMD will develop the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation Lidar (GEDI) for up to $94 million while JPL will build the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment (ECOSTRESS) on Space Station for as much as $30 million, NASA said Wednesday.

The sensors will give scientists new ways to see how forests and ecosystems are affected by changes in climate or in land use.

A high-resolution, multiple-wavelength imaging spectrometer from JPL will study the effectiveness of water use by vegetation.

This instrument will be completed in 2018 and will not cost more than $30 million. A laser-based system from the University of Maryland, College Park, will observe the structure of forest canopy. This instrument will be completed in 2019 and will not cost more than $94 million.

John Grunsfeld
"We are excited to expand the use of the International Space Station to make critical Earth observations that will help scientists understand the diversity of forests and vegetation and their response to a changing climate," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

"These innovative Earth Venture Instruments will join a growing suite of NASA Earth-observing sensors to be deployed to the station starting this year."

The instruments were competitively selected from 20 proposals submitted to NASA's Earth Venture Instrument program.

Part of the Earth System Science Pathfinder program (ESSP), Earth Venture investigations are small, targeted science investigations that complement NASA's larger research missions.

The National Research Council recommended in 2007 that NASA undertake this type of regularly solicited, quick-turnaround project. The program's first selection was awarded in 2010.

Simon Hook of JPL is the principal investigator for the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS).

This project will use a high-resolution thermal infrared radiometer to measure plant evapotranspiration, the loss of water from growing leaves and evaporation from the soil.

These data will reveal how ecosystems change with climate and provide a critical link between the water cycle and effectiveness of plant growth, both natural and agricultural.

The ECOSTRESS team has extensive experience in development and analysis of thermal infrared spectroscopic images of Earth's surface.

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