Research Areas

Rising population and globalization have led to increased appropriation of natural ecosystems for human use. The provision of ecosystem services, including food and water security, depends on the effectiveness of land management, and the availability of information on current trends in land utilization and condition.

Aerosol dynamics are a global phenomena that affect all aspects of remote sensing from the UV through the near infrared spectrum. Thus it is part of the signal for any remote sensing of vegetation, ocean and atmosphere and is critical for quantifying Earth radiative forcing. Due to the high variability of aerosols over space and time, the contribution to the signal can range from insignificant to dominant. The IPCC has reported that aerosols remain the most uncertain component to quantify the anthropogenic forcing of the earth. 

Land-atmosphere fluxes of energy, water, and carbon exert a strong control on atmospheric properties, and thus provide a key forcing for global climate. GSFC has a long history of incorporating remotely sensed data on land properties into land-atmosphere models, including the pioneering Simple Biosphere (SiB) model. This work extends to understanding how human land use, including urbanization, affects regional and global climate.

Disturbance processes such as fire, logging, and insect damage are an integral aspect of how ecosystems change through time. In addition, there is evidence for increased disturbance frequency and altered regrowth patterns due to recent climate change. These changes to disturbance regimes have significant implications for land-climate feedbacks and ecosystem services.

GSFC laser calibration setup (courtesy Joel McCorkel)

GSFC laser calibration setup (courtesy Joel McCorkel)

Global land carbon flux from CASA-GFED model  (courtesy G. James Collatz)

Global land carbon flux from CASA-GFED model (courtesy G. James Collatz)

Recent studies have advanced the ability to measure photosynthesis and related canopy pigments using optical (hyperspectral) remote sensing. These methods provide new ways of estimating plant metabolism (productivity, stress) from direct observation, and offer insights on the climate vulnerability of ecosystems. 

Climate and weather fluctuations leading to extreme temperatures, storm surges, flooding, and droughts produce conditions that precipitate mosquito-borne disease epidemics directly affecting global public health. Abnormally high temperatures affect populations of mosquito disease vectors by influencing: mosquito survival; susceptibility of mosquitoes to viruses; mosquito population growth rate, distribution, and seasonality; replication and extrinsic incubation period of a virus in the mosquito; and virus transmission patterns and seasonality.

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The objective of this project is to collect essential data for Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) epidemiology and ecology that has been neglected by the significant amount of research previously conducted on the virus.