Integrated Earth Observation

A global network of 1000 ground stations, combined with satellite data, would create a first-ever global Earth observatory.

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Jan 31, 2018
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Tropical deforestation is changing the climate system, melting permafrost releases greenhouse gases, but higher levels of carbon dioxide fuels more photosynthesis. These are just some of the ways changes to the earth’s forests, oceans, and cities affect the atmosphere and vice versa. Although these interactions have been known qualitatively for decades, until now no one has integrated data from satellite monitoring with that from weather stations and other ground-based monitoring stations into an integrated model.

To remedy this situation, in this Nature commentary the director of the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research at the University of Helsinki calls for a “global observatory” consisting of an integrated network of 1,000 “super stations” over the next 10-15 years. Each of these super stations would take advantage of advances in instrumentation to monitor thousands of ground-level atmospheric chemicals at once, including greenhouse gases, trace gases, aerosols, as well as soil temperature, moisture and nutrient levels and measures of photosynthesis. This data would be integrated with satellite-derived atmospheric data into computer models that could be used to predice the impact of new government policies, provide early warnings of extreme weather, or spot the first signs of chemical contamination. The cost of this network would be about $12 billion — about the costs of U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed wall between the United States and Mexico.

 Source: Nature  DOI: 10.1038/d41586-017-08967-y

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