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Five ways Australian science infrastructure is improving the accuracy of global environmental observations and predictions

Few people would argue that ‘the quality of a decision is only as good as the information used to make it.  So, when it comes to collecting environmental observation data for management, modelling and ecological forecasting, one should never underestimate the importance of good quality data.

TERN, Australia’s terrestrial ecosystem observatory, provides the Australian and international earth observation communities with the high quality, on-the-ground data required to properly calibrate and validate their observations and predictions.

Data from TERN’s ecosystem field observatory, including plot data on soil and vegetation; gas, energy, and water exchange data; remote sensing data; and modelled data products about soil, climate, and landscape attributes, are being used at home by government and on the international stage by Europe’s, America’s and India’s space agencies to improve the accuracy of global biogeophysical satellite products.

Here are five of the ways in which TERN’s ecosystem observation data and products are being used to ensure the accuracy of some of the nation and planet’s most important environmental prediction tools:

 

1 - TERN's role in national greenhouse gas accounting

TERN data are being used by one of our closest partner’s, the Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Energy to calibrate and validate carbon models and greenhouse gas accounting. Our high-quality data are vital in ensuring the accuracy of Australia’s carbon model predictions and helping meet national reporting requirements under international climate and sustainability frameworks.

 

2 - 55 global superstars of space-borne data validation

The international Committee on Earth Observation Satellites has added TERN’s Australia-wide network of 12 ecosystem processes monitoring SuperSites to their list of top 55 global sites for the calibration and validation of satellite-derived global bio-geophysical data products.

 

3 - From ground to air, lasers lasers everywhere

When it launches later this year, NASA’s GEDI will be the first space-borne laser to measure the structure of Earth's forests in high-resolution and 3D. This giant leap for ecosystem science wouldn’t be possible without some equally high-tech, but more down-to-Earth, data collection. Ground and airborne-based LIDAR data collected at TERN sites are being used to validate the space-borne LIDAR data collected by GEDI.

 

4 - Radaring in on the Earth’s most complex processes

Unlike GEDI, which uses light to monitor the Earth, the NASA-ISRO NISAR instrument will use radar to observe and take measurements of some of the planet's most complex processes. Despite their differences in approach, GEDI and NISAR have one important thing in common, they both require TERN’s on-the-ground data for validating the accuracy of their outputs.

 

5. A better understanding of water stress and water use by plants

Another collaboration has blasted off between NASA and TERN that’s set to dramatically improve global climate monitoring. NASA’s ECOSTRESS mission to the International Space Station launched from Cape Canaveral last month will provide critical climate data to scientists, helping them develop a better understand how crops, the biosphere and the global carbon cycle respond to water availability and drought.

 

 

 

 

Published in TERN newsletter August 2018

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