Terra Cognita: using earth observing systems to understand our world.
Who would believe that a butterfly, by flapping its wings in Peru, could set off a chain of events leading to a monsoon thousands of milesaway? This familiar notion from chaos theory chaos theory, in mathematics, physics, and other fields, a set of ideas that attempts to reveal structure in aperiodic, unpredictable dynamic systems such as cloud formation or the fluctuation of biological populations. may seem absurd even as it raises a worthy point: Everything around us is intimately connected. And by studying how broad forces in nature interact, we can construct predictions that offer great benefits to society.
Now a global effort is under way to revolutionize our understanding of the Earth as an interconnected whole. The effort aims to integrate Earth observing capabilities based on satellites and in situ In place. When something is "in situ," it is in its original location. or ground-based sensors into a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS GEOSS Global Earth Observation System of Systems (EPA) ). By uniting these systems, scientists hope to take the pulse of the planet, and in so doing, generate a range of environmental, economic, and health benefits.
For instance, should the effort yield even a 1[degrees]F improvement in weather forecasting weather forecasting
Prediction of the weather through application of the principles of physics and meteorology. Weather forecasting predicts atmospheric phenomena and changes on the Earth's surface caused by atmospheric conditions (snow and ice cover, storm tides, floods, , power utilities can plan their daily output needs more accurately, resulting in an annual $1 billion electricity savings for consumers in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. alone, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), independent agency of the U.S. government, with headquarters in Washington, D.C. It was established in 1970 to reduce and control air and water pollution, noise pollution, and radiation and to ensure the safe handling and (EPA EPA eicosapentaenoic acid.
n.pr See acid, eicosapentaenoic.
n. ). Likewise, improved monitoring of air pollution, or better satellite mapping of habitats that harbor malaria, cholera, or West Nile virus West Nile virus, microorganism and the infection resulting from it, which typically produces no symptoms or a flulike condition. The virus is a flavivirus and is related to a number of viruses that cause encephalitis. , could save many lives by establishing warning systems for at-risk populations that might reduce exposure.
A total of 54 countries, the European Union European Union (EU), name given since the ratification (Nov., 1993) of the Treaty of European Union, or Maastricht Treaty, to the
European Community , and 33 international organizations have joined the GEOSS thus far, providing a welcome boost to the environmental reputation of its sponsor: the United States. The project is also the first project of its kind to get such high-level support, says Steve Goodman Steve Goodman (July 25, 1948 – September 20, 1984) was an American folk music singer-songwriter from Chicago, Illinois. The writer of "City of New Orleans", made popular by Arlo Guthrie, Goodman won two Grammy Awards. , chief of the Earth and Planetary Science planetary science or planetology, study of planets and planetary systems as a whole. Planetary science applies the theories and methods of traditional disciplines such as astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics to the study of Branch at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), civilian agency of the U.S. federal government with the mission of conducting research and developing operational programs in the areas of space exploration, artificial satellites (see satellite, artificial), (NASA NASA: see National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
in full National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Independent U.S. ) Marshall Space Flight Center The George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), the original home of NASA, is a lead center for propulsion, Space Shuttle propulsion, Shuttle external fuel tank, crew training and payloads, International Space Station (ISS) design and construction, for computers, networks, and .
"I've never seen a program move at a pace like this with such a sustained effort," says Gary Foley, who is director of the EPA National Exposure Research Laboratory. "It seems to be the right thing at the right time with the right leadership. It was what everyone seemed to be looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. ."
A Basis in Climate Change
The pioneering force behind the 15-agency U.S. effort is Conrad C. Lautenbacher Conrad C. Lautenbacher is the incumbent Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere within the United States Department of Commerce and the eighth administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He was appointed to the position on December 19, 2001. , a retired Navy vice admiral who currently heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Noun 1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - an agency in the Department of Commerce that maps the oceans and conserves their living resources; predicts changes to the earth's environment; provides weather reports and forecasts floods and hurricanes and (NOAA NOAA
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Noun 1. NOAA - an agency in the Department of Commerce that maps the oceans and conserves their living resources; predicts changes to the earth's environment; ). Lautenbacher's efforts to promote Earth observations date back to his days with the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that he directed until arriving at NOAA in 2001.
Lautenbacher's initial goal with the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education was to improve studies of climate change, which he says are severely limited by data gaps and inconsistencies in ocean monitoring. Lautenbacher attributed the data shortages to what he calls a "principal investigator mentality" in ocean research. "You have research by scientists who compete for grants, publish their results, and move on," he says. "There's no sustainable component to it, nothing to tell you what's going on What's Going On is a record by American soul singer Marvin Gaye. Released on May 21, 1971 (see 1971 in music), What's Going On reflected the beginning of a new trend in soul music. over the long term. That's what's essential for climate research."
The best way to bolster ocean monitoring, Lautenbacher reasoned, was with a sustained and globally integrated research effort based on satellites and sensing devices in the ocean that would generate continuous data streams. Such an approach, he says, would clarify the role of the oceans in climate and provide immediate benefits in coastal management.
At NOAA, Lautenbacher continued to push for an ocean observing system, but his views on the technology had begun to expand. While attending the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg in September 2002, he was exposed to other uses for Earth observations in areas such as agriculture, forestry, and public health. Many scientists at Johannesburg were convinced that Earth observations are necessary to promote sustainable development across the spectrum of human activities.
When he returned to the United States, Lautenbacher and his cochairs on the National Science and Technology Council The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) was established in the US by Executive Order on November 23 1993. This Cabinet-level Council is the principal means within the executive branch to coordinate science and technology policy across the diverse entities that make up Committee on Environmental Natural Resources convened an interagency task force and charged it with organizing a global summit on Earth observations. When the Earth Observation Summit was held in Washington on 31 July 2003, it was on a scale that few of its organizers might have anticipated--five U.S. cabinet members and ministers from 33 countries and the European Union were in attendance. U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell launched the meeting, saying in his opening presentation, "We need to be able to see, hear, taste, smell, and measure the blue orb we have been given and that we call Earth."
Participants at the summit adopted a declaration calling for a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained Earth observation "system of systems." Among the goals laid out in the declaration are improved coordination of Earth observing strategies and systems, the free-flowing exchange of observational data, and coordinated efforts to promote the access of developing countries to the technology. The ad hoc For this purpose. Meaning "to this" in Latin, it refers to dealing with special situations as they occur rather than functions that are repeated on a regular basis. See ad hoc query and ad hoc mode. Group on Earth Observations (GEO) was formed and charged with creating a 10-year implementation plan to realize these goals. The cochairs of the ad hoc group now include Lautenbacher; Akio Yuki, the Japanese deputy minister of education, culture, sports, science, and technology; Achilleas This article is about the basketball club. For the Greek hero, see Achilles.
Achilleas is a Cypriot basketball club founded in 1943, nowadays running basketball, volleyball and table tennis divisions. Mitsos, director-general of research with the European Commission; and Robert Adam, South Africa's director-general of science and technology.
A framework for GEOSS's 10-year implementation plan was adopted at the second Earth Observation Summit, held in Tokyo on 25 April 2004. The completed 10-year plan will be adopted by ministers at a third summit, to be held in Brussels on 16 February 2005.
The Nuts and Bolts nuts and bolts
The basic working components or practical aspects: "[proposing]
So, what exactly is an "Earth observing system The Earth Observing System (EOS) is a program of NASA comprising a series of artificial satellite missions and scientific instruments in Earth orbit designed for long-term global observations of the land surface, biosphere, atmosphere, and oceans of the Earth. "? In general, the term describes any collection of tools used to take measurements of air, water, and land. These tools can be as simple as a pH sensor or as complex as a constellation of satellites in space. Both simple and complex tools are necessary; orbiting satellites cover broad sections of the planet with limited resolution whereas ground-based tools cover more limited regions with high resolution. When combined, these technologies provide the data needed to understand how physical and biological forces control the biosphere biosphere, irregularly shaped envelope of the earth's air, water, and land encompassing the heights and depths at which living things exist. The biosphere is a closed and self-regulating system (see ecology), sustained by grand-scale cycles of energy and of .
A total of 73 Earth observing satellites are in orbit now, of which 25 are owned by the United States. Of these, most are deployed by NASA, with the remainder operated by NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and a few private firms. A growing number of countries--among them the European Union countries, India, Russia, China, Brazil, Japan, and Canada--also have Earth observing satellites.
Satellites gather data by remote sensing, a process that generates measurements of Earth surface features and the atmosphere according to how they reflect visible or infrared radiation. Every object--down to a single molecule--reflects radiation according to a specific wavelength, which becomes the object's own de facto [Latin, In fact.] In fact, in deed, actually.
This phrase is used to characterize an officer, a government, a past action, or a state of affairs that must be accepted for all practical purposes, but is illegal or illegitimate. signature. Computer algorithms convert these signatures into measures of forest cover, soil moisture, cloud cover, ocean chlorophyll content, and many other useful parameters.
Remote sensing is an especially powerful capability when it is incorporated into a geographic information system geographic information system (GIS)
Computerized system that relates and displays data collected from a geographic entity in the form of a map. The ability of GIS to overlay existing data with new information and display it in colour on a computer screen is used primarily to . These systems integrate satellite and other geophysical data with socioeconomic data such as population demographics. What results are maps that allow researchers to "see" their parameter of interest in relation to their geographic position.
Although some satellite sensors can view the Earth's surface through cloud cover, experts say that spatial and temporal resolution are still inadequate, and there is no way to image what lies underwater. Thus, it's still necessary to use a range of additional in situ tools, such as weather balloons, aircraft, pollution sampling devices, and buoys that take physical measurements of the atmosphere, ocean, and land.
Fixed buoys, which are moored to the sea floor, float on the ocean surface and transmit ocean and weather data. Of the roughly 100 fixed buoys now in existence, most are found in equatorial waters. So-called Argos buoys function in a different way. These buoys sink to a depth of 2,000 meters and then drift for 10 days. Upon rising to the surface, they transmit water temperature and salinity data into space, where it is received by satellites that beam it back to scientists and weather agencies on Earth.
A total of 1,500 Argos buoys are now at work throughout the world; a global consortium responsible for the effort plans to deploy 1,500 more over the next several years.
Establishing the GEOSS
The problem with current Earth observing systems, experts say, is that they operate in isolation without "speaking" to each other. GEOSS members often describe the systems as "research stovepipes," with limited flexibility and focused application to particular needs. "For instance, some weather satellite instruments look only at cloud temperatures, but these same instruments, if tuned differently, could provide better detection of wildfires," explains Helen Wood, senior advisor for systems and services in NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, and director of the GEO Secretariat, the forum through which GEOSS members will organize their work. One of the GEOSS's main goals, she says, is simply to get researchers talking to each other and to end users about what they do. Just by discussing mutual needs, researchers might be prompted to design enhanced instruments that can be used for multiple purposes, she says.
Another important GEOSS goal, Wood adds, is to establish a coordinated system of data sharing that is freely accessible to users throughout the globe. Achieving this aim won't be easy--many countries differ with respect to data standards, formats, and their own commercial views on the technology. For instance, the United States provides much of its satellite data for flee, but the European Space Agency European Space Agency (ESA), multinational agency dedicated to the promotion, for exclusively peaceful purposes, of cooperation among European states in space research and technology. often charges for its data to recoup investment costs. Lautenbacher emphasizes that the need for consensus on business models for data sharing is critical and will likely take years to sort out.
Just the fact that GEOSS members agreed in principle to full and open data sharing with minimal time delays (as described in the 2003 declaration) was a big step forward, says Rick Ohlemacher, manager of environmental systems at Northrop Grumman Space Technology. "That in and of itself was a huge political milestone," he says. "For several decades, no one was able to get beyond that, so now the door is open." Northrop Grumman is one of the founding members of the Alliance for Earth Observations, an industry group established to support the GEOSS vision. The company is also the prime contractor for the future National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, which Ohlemacher says will be a key component to the satellite backbone of the GEOSS.
What the GEOSS provides, Ohlemacher says, is an enabling landscape where members can discuss how to expand global use of Earth observing technology. Ideally, the GEOSS would serve Earth observations in much the same way that the World Meteorological Organization World Meteorological Organization (WMO), specialized agency of the United Nations; established in 1951 with headquarters at Geneva. It replaced the International Meteorological Organization, which was established in 1878. serves weather forecasting, many experts suggest. The latter organization is an optimal model for the GEOSS for several reasons, Lautenbacher explains. It has a relatively long history (dating back to 1950), an effective governance structure, a permanent secretariat, and a mechanism for building and maintaining agreements. It also provides nations a way to manage technical issues while respecting each other's sovereignty. "There's no hint of language that says 'we're going to come into your country and tell you what to do,'" Lautenbacher says. "But you can go anywhere in the world and get a weather forecast."
To achieve similar value, the GEOSS must not only stimulate dialogue and open access, but also must find a way to bring poorer nations into the technology loop and get the developing world actively engaged in the system. Most developing countries lack the resources needed to use Earth observations effectively. Moreover, Ohlemacher says, it can be hard for scientists in these countries to communicate the benefits of Earth observations to more traditional populations, who might not understand how information derived from space could be useful or even desirable.
The lack of developing country resources also extends to coverage; indeed, much of the developing world is a blind spot for Earth observations, says Goodman. "We have geostationary Aligned with the earth. Refers to satellites (GEOs) that travel at the same rotational speed as the earth (they are geosynchronous) and are always the same distance from the earth. See GEO. weather satellites ringing the planet," says Goodman, "but what we need is greater temporal sampling from [higher-resolution] lower-orbiting satellites that pass over a point on Earth much less frequently--two to four times per day--to achieve the needed global coverage." Goodman says the gaps in surface measurements are significant in the developing world--where there is less Earth-based monitoring--compared to European nations and the United States."
The gaps are problematic because without surface observations, scientists can't adequately validate measurements made from space. Furthermore, some parameters are not well observed from space. One example is rainfall volume, which satellites are not yet able to measure directly. In Europe and North America, thousands of simple "tipping buckets" measure minutely to hourly rainfall, which is combined with satellite remote sensing to model weather patterns and local hydrology hydrology, study of water and its properties, including its distribution and movement in and through the land areas of the earth. The hydrologic cycle consists of the passage of water from the oceans into the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration (or . But tipping buckets are rare in developing countries, as are more sophisticated instruments like weather radar, which detects clouds and precipitation. "There are possibly as few as three weather radar in the entire African continent," Goodman says. "Here, every state has one, and TV stations tend to also have their own."
Global blind spots have numerous consequences. Obviously, without sufficient coverage, developing nations don't have access to global observation data that might be useful to them [for more on this topic, see "Building a Tsunami Warning System A tsunami warning system is a system to detect tsunamis and issue warnings to prevent loss of life and property. It consists of two equally important components: a network of sensors to detect tsunamis and a communications infrastructure to issue timely alarms to permit evacuation ," p. A90 this issue].
But the consequences also extend to developed countries and the Earth as a whole. Goodman points out that long-term weather forecasts in North America are less accurate than they could be thanks to a lack of data from the oceans as well as from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Moreover, studies of long-term trends such as climate change depend on knowledge of events taking place throughout the biosphere. If scientists can't quantify the effects of, say, carbon fluxes in the Amazon basin, they will be unable to generate the more comprehensive climate models they desire.
Earth Observation in Action
And yet, scientists interviewed for this article unanimously agree that Earth observations are useful now, and are becoming more so. Michael Emch, a spatial epidemiologist at Columbia University, has spent years using remote sensing to study tropical disease epidemiology. Much of his work is devoted to studies of cholera in the coastal nations of Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Mozambique. Using remote sensing data from NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites--which are both components of the agency's Earth Observing System program--Each has correlated cholera incidence with sea surface height Sea surface height (SSH) is the height (or topography or relief) of the ocean's surface. On a daily basis, SSH is most obviously affected by the tidal forces of the Moon and the Sun acting on the Earth. , sea surface temperature Sea surface temperature (SST) is the water temperature at the surface. In practical terms, the exact meaning of "surface" will vary according to the measurement method used. , and ocean chlorophyll content. These parameters are all potentially linked to the generation of plankton plankton: see marine biology.
Marine and freshwater organisms that, because they are unable to move or are too small or too weak to swim against water currents, exist in a drifting, floating state. blooms that harbor Vibrio cholerae Vibrio chol·er·ae
A bacterium that causes Asiatic cholera in humans; Koch's bacillus.
Vibrio cholerae Infectious disease The Vibrio , the bacterium that causes cholera. "If we can sort out the role of these variables, then we might be able to predict epidemics months before they occur," he says. "That's the ultimate goal, but it's a long way off."
Each concedes there is an ever-growing need for new instrumentation. For instance, satellites are unable to detect the salinity levels that are key to the survival of V. cholerae. Greater image resolution is also needed to quantify and monitor environmental changes, he says.
The multichannel Using two or more paths for transmission or processing. It can refer to a variety of architectures including (1) multiple I/O channels between the CPU and peripheral devices, (2) multiple wires in a cable, (3) multiple "logical" channels within a single wire or fiber or (4) multiple remote sensing device carried by the Terra and Aqua satellites, which is known as the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer MODIS (Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) is a payload scientific instrument launched into Earth orbit by NASA in 1999 on board the Terra (EOS AM) Satellite, and in 2002 on board the Aqua (EOS PM) satellite. , or MODIS MODIS Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (NASA/EOS instrument)
MODIS Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer
MODIS Model Oriented Distributed Systems , measures ocean chlorophyll levels in spatial increments of 1,000 meters and land boundary changes at increments of 250 meters [for more information on this instrument, see "MODIS Operandi for Mapping Haze," EHP EHP
1. effective horsepower
2. electric horsepower 111:A458 (2003)].
This is a significant improvement over previous sensing technologies, but one that still falls short of some research needs. In most cases, remote sensing won't provide conclusive evidence CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE. That which cannot be contradicted by any other evidence,; for example, a record, unless impeached for fraud, is conclusive evidence between the parties. 3 Bouv. Inst. n. 3061-62. that an outbreak is going to occur, Each says. Scientists also need ground-based observations--for instance, of the micro-scale environments inhabited by disease vectors, or of actual human populations at risk.
Another active proponent of Earth observing technology is Foley, who says Earth observations are increasingly relevant to the EPA's mission. For more than 10 years, the EPA has used remote sensing data generated by NASA's Landsat satellite program (now in its 33rd year) to monitor changes in urban landscapes, among other uses. Remote sensing will ideally advance new public warning systems for air and water pollution hazards, Foley says. But in the meantime Adv. 1. in the meantime - during the intervening time; "meanwhile I will not think about the problem"; "meantime he was attentive to his other interests"; "in the meantime the police were notified"
meantime, meanwhile , his biggest challenge is convincing EPA decision makers of the technology's potential. "They often don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. how to use the data," he explains. "It's not traditional, so we need to do some education and capacity building right here. But we intend to go all the way with this--resources, time, and science permitting.
John Delaney is as close to the technology's forefront as anyone on Earth. A professor of oceanography oceanography, study of the seas and oceans. The major divisions of oceanography include the geological study of the ocean floor (see plate tectonics) and features; physical oceanography, which is concerned with the physical attributes of the ocean water, such as at the University of Washington in Seattle, Delaney directs the Northeast Pacific Time-Series Undersea Networked Experiments (NEPTUNE Neptune, in Roman religion and mythology
Neptune, in Roman religion and mythology, god of water. He was presumably an indigenous god of fertility, but in later times he was identified with the Greek Poseidon, god of the sea. ) Program, one of the most comprehensive Earth observing efforts ever launched. NEPTUNE scientists seek to wire an entire tectonic plate off the Pacific Northwest with thousands of sensors both above and below the sea floor, all of them delivering real-time data to scientists on shore. The plan also calls for a fleet of underwater robots that will travel toward volcano eruptions, earthquakes, storms, and any number of other events to collect data. The $250 million price tag for the system is gradually being met through a variety of grant programs.
"[This program] gives us the ability to be in the environment continuously," Delaney says. "To really understand the ocean we have to be in the environment all the time and be flexible enough to adapt, observe, quantify, and sample." Lautenbacher describes NEPTUNE as being on the cutting edge of research. "It's where we will develop new sensors and ways to measure things we can now only dream of," he says.
In the years to come, GEOSS stakeholders will be focused on a number of priorities. According to Lautenbacher, these include the creation of a governance structure for the organization, the resolution of technical issues related to data sharing, and an inventory of Earth observing capacity needs.
Meanwhile, many of the countries working toward the GEOSS are also pursuing systems integration efforts at home. The United States, for instance, has convened an Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations, which is cochaired by representatives from NASA, NOAA, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Congress established the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in 1976 with a broad mandate to advise the President and others within the Executive Office of the President on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs. .
On 8 September 2004, the group released a draft version of its Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System. The report lays out a framework for U.S. participation in the GEOSS and describes opportunities in nine "societal benefits areas" where the technology can advance environmental goals.
Mary Gant, a program analyst at the NIEHS NIEHS National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH, DHHS) and a member of the interagency working group, says Earth observations will be broadly useful for environmental health, and for exposure assessment in particular. "One of the most difficult problems with which the health communities must cope is the accuracy of exposure assessment," she says. "The data and data products from an enhanced, integrated Earth observation system should greatly increase our ability to do exposure assessment."
Other countries are also proceeding with their own domestic and regional programs, albeit inconsistently, Lautenbacher says. In terms of countries that could propel the GEOSS, those represented by the European Union are perhaps best prepared, he suggests. The European Union has a Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative, which has created partnerships among the European Space Agency, the European Environment Agency European Environment Agency (EEA), agency of the European Union devoted to establishing a monitoring network for the monitoring of the European environment. It is governed by a Management Board composed of representatives of the governments of member states, a European Commission , and other institutions. The initiative lays out a process for ensuring that Earth observing data needs are met in both the near and long terms.
Initiative members are now establishing a uniform architecture for integrating space, terrestrial, seaborne sea·borne
1. Conveyed by sea; transported by ship.
2. Carried on or over the sea.
1. carried on or by the sea
2. , and airborne monitoring platforms. Thus, the initiative may provide a model for technical integration throughout the GEOSS, Lautenbacher says.
Earth observations could do much to improve our views and our understanding of the world around us. Many challenges remain for GEOSS, not just in terms of technical barriers but also cultural and institutional ones. But this growing network of sensors and satellites may represent the best opportunity to discover and quantify the fundamental drivers of the biosphere. Just as satellites and space exploration programs turn our attention outward, similar tools focus our attention inward, toward the unifying forces that hold life in a balance.
A system for change. Proponents of a new Global Earth observation System of Systems (GEOSS) envision using data from satellites and a variety of ground-based sensors to aid public health goals around that world. One potential use is to compile satellite mapping of habitats that harbor disease microbes such as Vibrio cholerae (right). This may help provide early warning to at-risk populations, such as the residents of Dhaka, Bangladesh, where one hospital alone (above) received more than 300 new cholera patients every day during monsoon-related flooding in July and August 2004.
It takes all kinds ... of tools. To be fully functional, the GEOSS will rely on a variety of tools. Simple gauges such as tipping buckets (above), which measure rainfall, provide measurements that can be correlated with data from more complex technologies, such as the satellite Aqua (left). The satellite image below, taken with MODIS instrumentation aboard Aqua, shows clouds of sediment (pictured in turquoise) in the southern Persian Gulf mixed with microscopic marine organisms (where the clouds appear more greenish). Such information may offer clues about potential future disease outbreaks.
The delta blues tell a story. Data gathered over long term may help researchers better predict how Earth systems will change in the future. The Landsat images above show how sedimentation of the Mississippi Delta has changed over the past 30 years. The first image, taken in 1973, shows a rich swell of sediment (visualized in blue). But the building of dams and artificial channeling along the Mississippi-Missuori River system decreased the amount of sediment that the currents carry; the second image, taken in 1989m shows how the delta began to lose marshland along its southeast edge. By 2003, when the third shot was taken, the addition of channels in the natural river levee levee (lĕv`ē) [Fr.,=raised], embankment built along a river to prevent flooding by high water. Levees are the oldest and the most extensively used method of flood control. had resulted in new marsh formation.
Poseidon adventure? The Northeast Pacific Time-Series Undersea Networked Experiments (NEPTUNE) Program is an ambitious plan to wire an entire tectonic plate off the Pacific Northwest with sensors delivering real-time data from above and below the sea floor.