NASA uses “first of its kind” satellites to illustrate global forests heights

Posted on July 28, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

NASA’s ICESat, Terra and Aqua satellites have created a first-of-its-kind map that details the world’s forests and oceans.  These satellites were recently used to show images of the Gulf spill, but were originally created to catalog the globe’s forest cover.  The map uses “uniform method for measure” rather than using local and regional canopy maps.  It will help scientist study how forests across the world stores and use carbon.

“The laser technology called LIDAR was used to capture the data. It is capable of taking vertical slices of surface features.  It measured the forest canopy by shooting a pulse of light at the surface and observed the time it took to return in comparison to the time recorded for the tree top.”

“LIDAR is unparalleled for this type of measurement … it would have taken weeks to capture this data in the field where LIDAR can capture it in seconds”, explains Michael Lefsky of the Colorado State University, responsible for capturing the data.

“What we really want is a map of above-ground biomass, and the height map helps get us there,” said Richard Houghton, an expert in terrestrial ecosystem science.

With this evidence, scientists have concluded that that old growth forests obtain carbon from the simple process of photosynthesis, while second growth forests are drastically absorbing large amounts of carbon, more than the old growth forests.

This is just the beginning of new technology that can enlighten us more about global climate change.

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