A NASA-supported research program brings together goat herders, the luxury fashion industry, a gold mining company and Stanford University to use Earth observations to support more sustainable grazing practices.
In 2021, Hurricane Ida left over 1 million people without power, tornadoes tore across the American Midwest, volcanoes forced people to evacuate their homes, wildfires covered the American West and unusual flooding wreaked havoc on Central Europe.
Instruments, like this flux tower, are used by scientists to verify the accuracy of the data available in OpenET, a powerful new web-based platform that puts Earth science data about water use by crops and other vegetation into the hands of farmers and water managers.
With Terra’s 25th Anniversary only two years away (December 2024), we’re kicking off the celebration early in our News and Events section with a new series highlighting some of Terra’s researchers, data users, educators, and science communicators. We’re especially excited to promote current and proposed research that uses Terra data in unique or novel ways! (Do you know someone who’s made important contributions to the Terra mission? Or a groundbreaking Terra study that you feel made a substantial impact in the fields of earth science or remote sensing? We’d love to feature them – email us your ideas!)
Our first post in this series highlights three trailblazing women at NASA who have contributed to Terra’s scientific legacy, while showcasing the collaborative efforts among scientists at Goddard, JPL, and NCAR/UCAR. Check out their stories below!
Dr. Nai-Yung Christina Hsu (GSFC)
Dr. Christina Hsu, a researcher from GSFC, has incorporated data from many of Terra’s instruments into her research. Most notably, in 2004, she developed a Deep Blue algorithm for MODIS data that better characterizes aerosol properties over deserts and urban areas. (Read the groundbreaking article here!)
More recently, Dr. Hsu collaborated with a team studying regional differences in air pollution reductions, due to the global COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020. She used datasets from MODIS and MISR (two instruments on Terra) to analyze aerosol optical depth (click the link to learn more!). Learn more about Dr. Hsu’s research using this link, and access the full article here!
Abigail (Abbey) Nastan (JPL)
Check out this recent Earthdata feature of our own MISR instrument Applications and Communications lead, Abbey Nastan! This summary gives an overview of the diverse portfolio of projects that Abbey is currently working on, including MERLIN – a unique visualization tool that leverages the MISR Plume Height Project dataset, giving new life to “old-er” data.
Meet Dr. Rebecca Buchholz, a MOPITT Project Scientist who has worked at NCAR/UCAR since 2014 and has used MOPITT’s carbon monoxide dataset to study long-term patterns of air pollution transportation, especially that associated with wildfires. In a Scientific American news article last month, Dr. Buchholz summarized her recent research findings (published in Nature Communications) that show a significant increase in Western U.S. wildfire air pollution during the month of August, a new peak that largely negates California’s efforts to reduce annual air pollution. (She also gave Terra’s long data-record a shout-out!) Read more about her research here!
Mark your calendars for these upcoming instrument and data team meetings.
CERES Spring 2022 Science Team Meeting: April 26-28, 2022
You can find more information, including the meeting agenda and virtual meeting link, by visiting the CERES website.
Check the Terra website often for additional 2022 instrument team meeting dates, as they’re made available.
Data Webinar — Learn How to View and Download Data from LAADS DAAC: April 28, 2022; 2 pm – 3 pm EDT
Want to learn how to access and download Level-1 or atmospheric data sets from NASA’s Level-1 and Atmosphere Archive and Distribution System Distributed Active Archive Center (LAADS DAAC)? Unsure about how to use the new View Data tool? Join experts from LAADS DAAC to learn about how to search and order from LAADS DAAC’s vast collection of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), European Space Agency Copernicus Sentinel-3A and -3B, and ESA Envisat MEdium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) datasets. Also, learn how to order datasets with post-processing operations in the Find Data tool, allowing researchers to download just the data they need, in the desired output. You can find more information on the webinar homepage, and can register for the webinar using this link (also available on the webinar homepage).
To return function to 16 printed wire assemblies, including the two most recent, Terra’s Flight Operations Team rebooted Terra’s solid state recorder, on September 22, 2021. The successful reboot of Terra’s solid state recorder returned Terra to a level that allows full science acquisitions from all five instruments (ASTER, CERES, MISR, MODIS, and MOPITT).
The recorder reboot took nearly 12 hours to complete. The board-by-board power up sequencing resulted in all 16 printed wire assemblies of the 16 offline assemblies returning to operational status. Terra now has all 58 assemblies in service, and Terra’s data storage capacity is at the same level it had at launch. There are currently no known hardware limitations to the operation of Terra or any of its sensors and there is currently no official passivation (mission end) date.
For over two decades Terra has collected valuable data about Earth’s systems. In February 2020 Terra stopped doing platform maneuvers that would control its equator crossing time in order to maintain fuel for collision avoidance maneuvers. The remaining fuel will also be used to lower Terra’s orbit as part of its eventual passivation process. Now with the printed wire assemblies being returned to full function, Terra will be able to collect full data acquisitions from all five instruments throughout this process.
Terra will also continue collecting data after an orbit lowering maneuver planned for Fall 2022. The maneuver upholds agreements to ensure Terra is a safe distance from the other missions in the 705-km Earth Observing Satellite Constellation when fuel to maintain Terra’s orbit has been depleted.
“The science community views the changes in crossing time and orbit altitude as continuation of normal data collection for those products not affected by the orbital changes as well as an opportunity to do novel science with those that are affected,” according to Kurtis Thome, Terra Project Scientist. The Terra Project fully expects the Terra platform and all five instruments to operate past 2026 allowing them to maintain their status as leaders in Earth science data production. Terra’s long-term data record will continue to contribute to the Earth Science Division’s key science questions:
How is the global Earth system changing?
What causes these changes in the Earth system?
How will the Earth system change in the future?
How can Earth system science provide societal benefit?
Terra, the flagship Earth Observing Satellite, continues to be a leader in Earth science data, contributing to scientific research and applications worldwide, now with data capacity levels restored by a successful solid state recorder reboot.
The world is literally a greener place than it was 20 years ago, and data from NASA satellites has revealed a counterintuitive source for much of this new foliage: China and India. A new study shows that the two emerging countries with the world’s biggest populations are leading the increase in greening on land. The effect stems mainly from ambitious tree planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries.The greening phenomenon was first detected using satellite data in the mid-1990s by Ranga Myneni of Boston University and colleagues, but they did not know whether human activity was one of its chief, direct causes. This new insight was made possible by a nearly 20-year-long data record from a NASA instrument orbiting the Earth on two satellites. It’s called the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, and its high-resolution data provides very accurate information, helping researchers work out details of what’s happening with Earth’s vegetation, down to the level of 500 meters, or about 1,600 feet, on the ground.
Taken all together, the greening of the planet over the last two decades represents an increase in leaf area on plants and trees equivalent to the area covered by all the Amazon rainforests. There are now more than two million square miles of extra green leaf area per year, compared to the early 2000s – a 5% increase.
“China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9% of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation – a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation,” said Chi Chen of the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University, in Massachusetts, and lead author of the study.
An advantage of the MODIS satellite sensor is the intensive coverage it provides, both in space and time: MODIS has captured as many as four shots of every place on Earth, every day for the last 20 years.
“This long-term data lets us dig deeper,” said Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley, and a co-author of the new work. “When the greening of the Earth was first observed, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to more leaf growth in northern forests, for instance. Now, with the MODIS data that lets us understand the phenomenon at really small scales, we see that humans are also contributing.”
China’s outsized contribution to the global greening trend comes in large part (42%) from programs to conserve and expand forests. These were developed in an effort to reduce the effects of soil erosion, air pollution and climate change. Another 32% there – and 82% of the greening seen in India – comes from intensive cultivation of food crops.
Land area used to grow crops is comparable in China and India – more than 770,000 square miles – and has not changed much since the early 2000s. Yet these regions have greatly increased both their annual total green leaf area and their food production. This was achieved through multiple cropping practices, where a field is replanted to produce another harvest several times a year. Production of grains, vegetables, fruits and more have increased by about 35-40% since 2000 to feed their large populations.
How the greening trend may change in the future depends on numerous factors, both on a global scale and the local human level. For example, increased food production in India is facilitated by groundwater irrigation. If the groundwater is depleted, this trend may change.
“But, now that we know direct human influence is a key driver of the greening Earth, we need to factor this into our climate models,” Nemani said. “This will help scientists make better predictions about the behavior of different Earth systems, which will help countries make better decisions about how and when to take action.”
The researchers point out that the gain in greenness seen around the world and dominated by India and China does not offset the damage from loss of natural vegetation in tropical regions, such as Brazil and Indonesia. The consequences for sustainability and biodiversity in those ecosystems remain.
Overall, Nemani sees a positive message in the new findings. “Once people realize there’s a problem, they tend to fix it,” he said. “In the 70s and 80s in India and China, the situation around vegetation loss wasn’t good; in the 90s, people realized it; and today things have improved. Humans are incredibly resilient. That’s what we see in the satellite data.”
Worldview Snapshots is an easy-to-use application for rapidly producing images from daily MODIS and VIIRS global imagery.
Josh Blumenfeld, EOSDIS Science Writer
After almost 20 years, the Rapid Response system that was created to display daily satellite images is being retired. The good news is that a new system with greater capability and flexibility for producing these images is taking its place – Worldview Snapshots.
Worldview Snapshots is a lightweight application created by NASA’s Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) Project for quickly making satellite images for any location on Earth (including the poles). Users can even configure the application to produce daily images of a specific area of interest, and images can be previewed and adjusted before they are downloaded. Based on the size of the geographic area selected, Worldview Snapshots even provides a suggested optimal image resolution from a drop-down menu.
Worldview Snapshots offers daily base layers from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)instrument aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua Earth observing satellites as well as from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard the joint NASA/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP) satellite. To keep Worldview Snapshots uncluttered and allow for rapid image creation, the application features only nine common MODIS and VIIRS base layers and only three overlays: fires (provided by the Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS [LANCE] system); coastlines; and coastlines, borders, and roads. If the fire overlay is selected, the fire overlay will be matched with the corresponding base layer. For example, if a Terra MODIS Corrected Reflectance base layer is chosen, the application will use the Terra MODIS Day Fires/Thermal Anomalies overlay.
The ESDIS Project created Worldview Snapshots using the same API that powers the Worldview data visualization application. In fact, imagery for both Worldview and Worldview Snapshots is provided through NASA’s Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS). However, while Worldview is designed for in-depth interactive exploration of satellite imagery using more than 800 layers (including the ability to compare imagery from different days and create animated GIFs of imagery covering several days), Worldview Snapshots is designed for the rapid creation of static images based on a limited menu of pre-defined settings. This makes Worldview Snapshots well-suited for users with limited internet bandwidth, such as users aboard research vessels or conducting research in remote areas. Want to explore a snapshot in more detail? A simple click of a button imports Worldview Snapshots settings into Worldview, where the image can be interactively explored in more detail.
Worldview Snapshots is a logical evolution of the Rapid Response system. When it was created in 2001, Rapid Response was designed to provide images created from Terra MODIS data shortly after a satellite overpass. These static images met the needs of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Interagency Fire Center, and other federal and state users. While lacking the processing and quality assessment required for scientific use, these near real-time images were perfect for monitoring and tracking ongoing events, such as wildfires or storms.
By 2007, Rapid Response had incorporated data and imagery from Aqua MODIS and was producing daily images of pre-defined areas. LANCE was developed in 2009 to deliver data and imagery from instruments aboard numerous Earth observing missions within three hours of a satellite overpass. The advent of global mapping services like Google Maps created a desire for interactive imagery for any point on Earth, not just the pre-defined Rapid Response images. As a result, an effort to create daily global MODIS imagery was initiated in 2011 along with the development of an application to allow users to interactively explore this imagery. The result was Worldview, which was introduced in December 2011.
The combination of Worldview Snapshots’ ability to quickly create images showing any location on Earth and Worldview’s ability to enable in-depth interactive exploration of daily global imagery provides users with an unmatched, integrated flexibility to explore the planet using NASA Earth observing data. See for yourself and create some snapshots today!