Frequently Asked Questions
What is NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System?
What is the authority for the Carbon Monitoring System?
What are the parts of the Carbon Monitoring System?
What is the purpose of Pilot Projects?
What are the Pilot Projects?
What is Biomass?
What is the CMS Biomass Pilot?
What is Flux?
What is the CMS Flux Pilot?
What are “Applications”?
What is the CMS Applications Activity?
What is Policy?
Who are the potential users of NASA CMS products?
NASA's Carbon Monitoring System is an initiative which is working to develop scientific products quantifying carbon in trees (biomass) and atmosphere (CO2 flux) that will be of known accuracy and will be available for scientific inquiry, inventory processes, policy and business decision-making, resource management, philanthropic projects and other decision-support systems. (home)
NASA's development of a Carbon Monitoring System reflects a scientific plan with products and work assignments across the NASA Centers, in coordination with program managers at NASA Headquarters, together with a programmatic focus on smaller-scale (e.g. local to regional) biomass products.
The work will leverage the much larger investment made by NASA in satellite and airborne observations of carbon-related properties, as well as in carbon cycle science. It also takes into account the efforts of other Federal agencies, especially as coordinated through the Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group of the US Global Change Research Program.
A Fiscal Year 2010 Congressional Appropriation requires NASA to initiate work towards a Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) and provides some specific direction for that work. Congressional direction includes a requirement that NASA replicate state and national carbon and biomass inventory processes as well as carry out pilot initiates for the development of a CMS.
The Carbon Monitoring System initiatives include a Biomass Pilot, a Flux Pilot, a Scoping Efforts and an Applications Initiative. The desired results of the Pilot Projects are to produce initial products that are of use to a variety of interested parties, including scientists, policy makers, philanthropists, and decision makers for existing and emerging technical decision support systems, and also to increase understanding of the requirements or needs of users to inform future product development and refinement.
The initial Pilot Projects are prototyping activities. Their products will be designed to be useful to scientists, decision makers and other users to meet current and future needs. Just as importantly, the techniques developed by the Pilot Programs will demonstrate the usefulness of remote sensing products for carbon monitoring and will guide future products to be developed by NASA and other national and international organizations and will demonstrate the usefulness of remote sensing products.
The Biomass product will focus on quantifying aboveground carbon in vegetative biomass (trees) while the Flux product will focus on the CO2 exchange processes in the atmosphere and biosphere. Each Pilot must quantify the accuracies of the data products.
Although the Pilot Projects are complementary to each other, they are not currently interdependent. Each pilot project will use a spatially consistent approach across local regions and United States, with the potential to scale future products to a globally and perform uncertainty analyses on all data products.
A basic definition of “biomass” is “the total mass of all living material in a specific area, habitat or region, or biological material used as a fuel or source of energy”. The definition used by the Carbon Monitoring System is more specific, and is limited to the above ground woody vegetation carbon stock in a given region measured by weight in a given area, or “biomass density”. The Biomass Pilot will use satellite and in situ (field) techniques to measure biomass of trees in a variety of ecosystems.
Land and ocean vegetation emit and absorb 96% of all CO2 in the atmosphere, and vegetation is a very important reservoir of carbon worldwide. Changes in carbon uptake by and storage within vegetation and the associated soils can have deeply significant impact on the global carbon balance.
The goal of the Biomass Pilot Project is to provide geospatially explicit, consistent estimates of above ground terrestrial vegetation biomass and carbon storage for the United States by combining advance satellite products with ground observations and to evaluate how well these estimates meet the nations’ needs for monitoring carbon storage and changes in carbon storage.
The movement of any material from one place to another is called a “flux”. The Carbon Monitoring System narrows the definition to the integrated emission/uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) or, in simplest terms, the flow of carbon dioxide (CO2) between the land, ocean and atmosphere. The Flux Pilot focuses on mapping and understanding the processes that transfer carbon from one area of the world to another.
Carbon flux is very complex, as the flow of carbon between the Earth and atmosphere is dependent on many variables, such as vegetative photosynthesis, plant respiration, soil respiration, litterfall, ocean-atmosphere exchange, land use and land cover change, and fossil fuels emissions, among others. A quantification of carbon flux is essential for understanding of the carbon cycle and climate change, and critical for formation of informed and intelligent policy.
The Flux Pilot will work to combine satellite data and tower data with modeled atmospheric transport initiated by observationally-constrained terrestrial and oceanic models to tie the atmospheric observations to surface exchange processes and use the results to provide an estimate of the atmosphere-biosphere CO2 exchange processes as well as an analysis of the uncertainties of the product.
The term Applications is defined as innovative uses of data products for science, scientific analysis and in operational decision-making activities for scientific and societal benefit.
Applications research is an integral part of the Carbon Monitoring System, and will provide a fundamental understanding of how Biomass and Flux data products can be scaled and integrated into scientific data processing and analysis, and into users’ policy, business and management activities to improve decision-making efforts.
The FY 2010 Carbon Monitoring Systems (CMS) Pilot Applications Activity is designed as a bridge between CO2 researchers and end users of research data. Engaging potential end users and discovering their needs early in the life of the Carbon Monitoring System will allow scientists to provide highly reliable data in the most relevant format possible for informed policy discussion and decision making, in addition to data that is relevant for scientific progress.
Policy is the design and implementation of plans to achieve desired goals or results. Policy making includes the process of defining goals, standards and results as well as creating means to achieve those goals, consensus building and communication. Sound and effective policy requires, at its very foundation, a solid, sound and accurate knowledge base provided in an understandable, usable and accessible format.
The Carbon Monitoring System will be a critical element in providing solid scientific information of quantified accuracy which will serve as a fundamental knowledge base for planning, policy and decision making at all levels.
The Carbon Monitoring System end user will include individuals or groups in the public or private sectors who are interested in using the Pilot products for their own interests, including but not limited to scientific research, interpretation of biomass and flux products, delivery of information about the products and decision or policy making.
Users of the Carbon Monitoring System products may be from governmental agencies (US federal, state, local), from philanthropic projects (NGOs, etc.), from existing and emerging technologies, and from scientific communities. Identification of potential users is an on-going activity, and user lists will be continuously updated by communication with the communities.