NASA finds two new space-based ways to track climate change – TechCrunch

We often think of NASA as an agency looking out into space, but it’s the agency’s position in space that makes it such a powerful tool for observing Earth itself. Today, NASA announced the results of two space studies observing climate change on the planet.

The first is a dataset from the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) mission, a high-resolution lidar instrument aboard the International Space Station (ISS) that estimated the total amount of aboveground forest biomass and its carbon storage capacity. . . This information can now be used by researchers studying the role of forests in mitigating climate change.

Over the past three years, GEDI has performed billions of laser measurements of vegetation around the world. This data was combined with airborne and ground-based lidar surveys to create detailed 3D biomass maps that show the total amount of vegetation in a one square kilometer area. Thanks to these maps, researchers will be able to better estimate the amount of carbon stored in forests.

“Resolving the structure of different forest and woodland ecosystems with much more certainty will benefit not only the estimation of carbon stocks, but also our understanding of their ecological state and the impact of different land management practices,” John Armston, GEDI’s validation and calibration manager and an associate research professor at the University of Maryland, said in a press release.

Illustration showing how a lidar signal can indicate the height of the forest canopy.

Picture credits: Nasa

The second element is a joint project between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, which used satellite data to develop a method to monitor groundwater loss, a serious matter for the agricultural industry. The researchers observed the Tulare Basin in California with the US-European Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and GRACE Follow-On satellites and a Sentinel-1 satellite from the European Space Agency (ESA).

Groundwater from the Tulare Basin is pumped to irrigate the state’s Central Valley, a major agricultural center in the United States, and its supply is dwindling. The satellite data provided the team with the context to develop a model that monitors the rate and type of groundwater loss.

“The method sorts out the amount of groundwater lost in clay-confined aquifers, which can be drained so dry that they do not recover, and the amount that comes from the ground that is not confined in an aquifer, which can be replenished by a few years of normal rainfall,” NASA wrote in a press release.

Even as NASA seeks to return to the Moon, the agency has reiterated its commitment to Earth science missions. NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy addressed the agency’s climate change research prioritization at the 37th Annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this week.

“This year, together with our international partners, we are launching the Earth System Observatory, a series of Earth observation satellites that will measure key parameters to improve the global understanding of climate change,” she said during of the conference. “As we have measured the Earth in the past, we have found that the most important thing to quantify is not just water or weather or soil moisture or any other individual thing, but actually study the Earth as a system, and so NASA’s work here at the Earth System Observatory is essential for the entire planet.

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