Climate change, deforestation, ocean acidification, pollution — the scale of human-induced environmental impacts on the Earth is now so profound that scientists have declared a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene.
Big Data has emerged as a game-changer for addressing and mitigating these impacts, thanks to the vast amounts of environmental data being collected and processed every day from a multitude of sources — from satellites and sensors to aircraft and weather station networks. Climate sciences are particularly leading this Big Data revolution, as recognized by the Data-Driven Climate Sciences section of Frontiers in Big Data.
We asked Professor John Kimball — the section’s Chief Editor and Professor in the Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences at the University of Montana, USA — for his insights on what Big Data means for the environment and sustainability.
Beneath vast plains of Arctic tundra and swampy taiga forests lies permanently frozen ground, or permafrost. As northern polar regions continue to warm at a rate twice the global average, this permafrost begins to thaw. Unfrozen, waterlogged soils are like witches’ cauldrons for methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
In these environments, organic material from plants and other sources slowly decays with the help of microorganisms called Archaea, releasing methane (CH4) into the atmosphere [Schuur et al., 2015]. Scientists know that this process is occurring, but the precise amount of Arctic carbon released as CH4 remains uncertain. Also, atmospheric measurements of the amounts of methane released by permafrost (a top-down approach) are far less than estimates of these amounts made using point-based field assessments and ecosystem modeling (bottom-up approaches). Thus, how a changing climate has affected and will affect future CH4 emissions remains a topic of debate among scientists.
MISSOULA – A team of scientists at the University of Montana has discovered that climate change will significantly impact plant traits and distributions in the coming decades, affecting global ecosystem productivity.
Nima Madani, who graduated from UM in December with a doctorate in systems ecology, led the study. Scientific Reports recently published the team’s results.
Two University of Montana Regents Professors recently were recognized as Highly Cited Researchers on the 2017 list of The Worlds Most Influential Scientific Minds.
The publication, released in December by Clarivate Analytics, lists UM Regents Professor of Ecology Ragan Callaway and recently retired UM Regents Professor of Ecology Steve Running under its Environment/Ecology section.
Callaway and Running ranked in the top 1 percent of scientists by citations for field and publication year in Web of Science. The listing is online at https://clarivate.com/hcr/2017-researchers-list/.
This data set consists of a Northern Hemisphere daily landscape Freeze/Thaw status at 6 km resolution for the years 2002 to 2016 derived from observations acquired by the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer - Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) and the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2).
In the last few years an interesting framing of global planetary boundaries has been developed, yet without a carbon cycle variable. In this seminar i will suggest that NPP might be a relevant planetary boundary, and with a multi decade of measurement that already exists, I will evaluate how stable global terrestrial NPP is and whether we can define a realistic boundary. Finally, i will discuss the policy relevance of such a boundary.
MISSOULA – The votes are tallied and the winners selected in the University of Montana’s annual Pinecone Awards contest, which invites web users to select the University’s best websites.
- Best User Experience: School of Art, http://www.umt.edu/art/.
- Most Innovative: University Center, http://www.umt.edu/uc/.
- Most Improved Site: Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, http://www.ntsg.umt.edu/.
- People’s Choice: W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, http://www.cfc.umt.edu/.
- Best Visual Design: Avian Science Center, http://www.cfc.umt.edu/asc/.
- The Pulaski: John Venters, University Center, http://www.umt.edu/uc/.
- Best Study Page: School of Theatre & Dance, https://www.umt.edu/study/theatre.
For a complete list of awards and winners, visit http://www.umt.edu/web/pinecone-awards/2017/default.php.
A pioneer in satellite-driven ecological forecasting technology, Nemani, who earned a doctorate in forestry from UM, is the director of NASA's Ecological Forecasting Laboratory. His work, which he started at UM, is the basis NASA Earth Observing System's weekly monitor of global plant production, a unique global dataset used by scientists worldwide. Nemani, whose rank of senior research scientist is attained by only one in 1,000 NASA employees, developed and leads a modeling framework called the Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System. TOPS produces ecological nowcasts and forecasts using satellite and climate data and is a crucial tool used in global carbon monitoring, helping address issues related to water, natural hazards, carbon emissions and sequestration, agricultural productivity, public health and urban planning.
A new series of images generated with data from NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite illustrate the surface flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey from before its initial landfall through August 27, 2017. The SMAP observations detect the proportion of the ground covered by surface water within the satellite's field of view. The sequence of images depicts successive satellite orbital swath observations showing the surface water conditions on August 22, before Harvey's landfall (left), and then on Aug. 27, two days after landfall (middle).
Using satellite remote sensing data sets can be a daunting task. Giovanni, a Web-based tool, facilitates access, visualization, and exploration for many of NASA’s Earth science data sets.
URBANA, Ill. - Without advanced sensing technology, humans see only a small portion of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Satellites see the full range--from high-energy gamma rays, to visible, infrared, and low-energy microwaves. The images and data they collect can be used to solve complex problems. For example, satellite data is being harnessed by researchers at the University of Illinois for a more complete picture of cropland and to estimate crop yield in the U.S. Corn Belt.
(U.S. Senate) - U.S. Senator Jon Tester is applauding three research teams from Montana State University and the University of Montana that have been selected to receive funding and develop their research with NASA.
- SMAP L4 9 km EASE-Grid Surface and Root Zone Soil Moisture Geophysical Data
(SPL4SMGP; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5067/B59DT1D5UMB4)
- SMAP L4 9 km EASE-Grid Surface and Root Zone Soil Moisture Analysis Update
(SPL4SMAU; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5067/20ULJH6EZKFJ)
- SMAP L4 9 km EASE-Grid Surface and Root Zone Soil Moisture Land Model Constants
(SPL4SMLM; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5067/4IYTBSUKM57Q)
- SMAP L4 Global Daily 9 km Carbon Net Ecosystem Exchange
(SPL4CMDL; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5067/O4HAQJEWWUU8)
- SMAP observations are now assimilated in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia due to expanded coverage of brightness temperature scaling parameters. The latter are based on 2 years of SMAP Version 3 brightness temperature observations where the SMOS climatology is unavailable because of RFI.
- An improved version of the model-only Nature Run (NRv4.1) simulation is used to derive brightness temperature scaling parameters, model soil moisture initial conditions, and soil moisture climatology.
- Model now uses dynamic 8-day fPAR inputs obtained from the latest (Collection 6) MODIS fPAR record at 500 m resolution.
- Updated and recalibrated ancillary Biome Properties Look-Up Table (BPLUT) and re-initialized model initial global soil organic carbon (SOC) pools to reflect new MODIS Collection 6 fPAR inputs.
To access data, documentation, and tools, please see the SMAP Web site at the NSIDC DAAC: http://nsidc.org/data/smap/
Data center: NSIDC DAAC (http://nsidc.org/daac)
Sponsor: NASA EOSDIS (http://earthdata.nasa.gov)
If you have questions, please contact the User Services Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eight countries control land in the Arctic Circle. Five have coastlines to defend. The temperature is rising. The ice is melting. The race for newly accessible resources is beginning. And Russia is gaining ground.
Key Points: 1. Observed changes in the length of the frost-free season, defined as the number of frost-free days in a year, reflect the overall warming trend in the climate system. The bars on the graph show the difference between the number of frost-free days in each year and the average number of frost-free days from 1979 to 2014.
The past decade is the warmest on record since instrumental measurements began in the 1880s. Previous research suggested that in the '80s and '90s, warmer global temperatures and higher levels of precipitation -- factors associated with climate change - were generally good for plant productivity. An updated analysis published this week in Science indicates that as temperatures have continued to rise, the benefits to plants are now overwhelmed by longer and more frequent droughts. High-resolution data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, indicate a net decrease in NPP from 2000-2009, as compared to the previous two decades.
The flow of water in Montana's rivers is lifeblood for its economy, both through tourism and agriculture. Montana's trout and the $300 million recreational fishing industry depend on cool waters flowing from melting snow high in the mountains throughout the summer. Irrigated crops play a prominent role in Montana's $2.4 billion agricultural industry, and these crops rely on the same strong river flows during the summer when soils are driest and plants thirstiest. But a broad trend is changing the way streams and rivers flow in Montana.
The pattern over the past fifty or so years is unmistakable. Across Montana, temperatures in March have been rising. An analysis by Climate Central shows that average March temperatures have risen over 7°F since the 1950s. This rise matches general expectations from other research on effects of human-caused global warming in the US West; and the climb is projected to continue (see animated map), although its steepness will depend on how many more greenhouse gases go into the atmosphere.
Warmer March temperatures mean that snow in the mountains begins melting sooner. Earlier snowmelt means less snow remains during the summer months — especially late in the summer — which translates to less water flowing down Montana's rivers. This means less water for irrigation, and slower flows in streams. Slow-moving water heats up more easily when the weather is hot, so slower summer flows mean more opportunities for water to get above the lethal 78°F threshold for trout.
Beyond this, Montanans also have to cope with increased wildfire activity and more outbreaks of tree-killing insects. Both trends, which have been linked to human-caused warming, cost the economy dearly.
Montanans are not sitting idly in the face of these challenges. They have already begun to tap their massive potential to produce climate-friendly wind energy. In fact, it is estimated that Montana's winds could generate as much electricity as nineteen western states consume today; currently, Montana is tapping about 4% of this potential. Making energy from wind produces essentially no greenhouse gases.
Montana also sits on about a quarter of the nation's coal reserves. Governor Brian Schweitzer wants to build coal to liquid (CTL) plants, which use coal to make liquid fuels that can replace gasoline or diesel fuel. However, CTL plants are water-intensive, and the production and use of CTL fuels generates twice the greenhouse gases that regular petroleum products do. Recognizing the carbon challenge from coal, Montana is aiming to be a leader in a new technology that would harvest coal's energy while capturing and burying deep in the ground carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released in liquid fuel production. Even with this step, however, using CTL fuels would still release about the same amount of greenhouse gases overall as burning gasoline or other crude oil products.
Footage credits: Environmental Defense Fund, Government of Canada, Invenergy & the Andy Nebel Company, Getty Images, University of Montana, Broadcast Media Center, American Museum of Fly Fishing, Western Governors' Association, Phil Takatsuno/ Yellowstone Media, Casey A. Cass/ University of Colorado
On Dec. 14, 2010 NASA Goddard researchers will conduct a press briefing at the American Geophysical Union Fall 2010 meeting, entitled, "Satellite Supported Estimates of Human Rate of NPP carbon Use on Land: Challenges Ahead." In the first measurement of this trend, the research showed humans are using an increasing amount of Earth's annual production of photosynthetic land plants and that consumption rose from 20 to 25 percent from 1995 to 2005.