There isn’t a dish to play cricket in, and the mission isn’t broadcasting a moon landing, but the sentiments remain the same: Australia is playing a small but critical role in yet another landmark international space mission.
At the end of a cold winter’s day in a remote part of the Snowy Mountains, on the NSW-Victoria border, a team of scientists pose for a celebratory photo. They’ve just successfully completed the first of twelve trips to TERN’s Tumbarumba Wet Eucalypt SuperSite to collect field measurements and install new high-tech sensors on the 70m tall ecosystem monitoring tower and in the surrounding forest.
Mark Kitchen (CSIRO), Darren Ghent (Leicester University) and Will Woodgate (CSIRO) at TERN’s Tumbarumba SuperSite after installing new high-tech sensors on the site’s 70m tall ecosystem monitoring tower and in the surrounding forest in June 2019 (image courtesy of Emma Dodd)
These measurements are recognised as Essential Climate Variables, which critically contribute to the characterisation of Earth’s climate as outlined by the World Meteorological Organisation.
All of this amounts to an impressive new capability that not only measures the dynamics of this eucalypt ecosystem in greater detail, but also helps to verify the accuracy of a number of globally important satellite products delivered by the European Commission (EC) through Copernicus Global Land Service and the European Space Agency through their Sentinel missions.
CSIRO’s Mark Kitchen at the top of the 70m tall monitoring tower at TERN’s Tumbarumba SuperSite (photo courtesy of Will Woodgate)
The data from the Tumbarumba site will ensure the accuracy of the suite of open access vegetation and radiometric monitoring data products delivered by Copernicus’ Ground-Based Observations for Validation (GBOV) component, says GBOV service manager Dr Christophe Lerebourg of ACRI-ST.
With the new set of instruments installed on the tower and on the ground—thanks to collaboration between CSIRO and ACRI-ST—GBOV will improve the scalability and accuracy of seven satellite-derived data products (including five ECVs):
Leaf area index (LAI)
Fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (FAPAR)
Fraction of covered land (FCOVER)
Land surface temperature (LST)
Equipment at TERN’s Tumbarumba SuperSite continuously measures the exchanges (flux) of carbon dioxide, water vapour and energy between the terrestrial ecosystem and atmosphere
The collaboration between TERN, CSIRO, ESA, EC, GBOV and ACRI-ST came about after TERN’s Ecosystem Processes monitoring SuperSites were recognised as globally significant for validation of satellite derived earth observation products by the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Working Group on Calibration and Validation (WGCV) and their Land Product Validation subgroup (LPV).
The CEOS WGCV LPV Subgroup compiled a ranking of 55 global research sites most suitable for international cal/val activities including sites from TERN, NEON, and ICOS. The Australian TERN sites featured prominently and had seven of the top 10 ranked sites globally, with Tumbarumba ranked as the world’s second most important site for global calibration and validation activities of land surface products.
Cutting edge systems, developed in Australia for ground monitoring and deployed on Tumbarumba, have also caught the interest of the scientific community in recent years. The THEMS instrument developed by CSIRO was one of the elements that drew attention to Tumbarumba in addition to its highly qualified and motivated research group, says Christophe.
One of the 20 FAPAR nodes to be deployed on ground (left), thermal sensors deployed on top of Tumbarumba tower (middle), the CIMEL sunphotometer monitoring atmospheric composition (right)
As Copernicus is intended to be a long-term operational data service provider, Christophe says that there is a strong likelihood of continued work under this collaborative effort well beyond the 2020 contract end date.
Tumbarumba with its world leading research equipment and researchers, is truly writing another page in Australia’s proud history in supporting some of the planet’s biggest space missions.
Looking straight down after the 70m climb up the TERN flux tower at Tumbarumba (photo courtesy of Will Woodgate)
TERN’s Tumbarumba SuperSite is located in NSW’s Bago State Forest, a managed, open wet sclerophyll eucalypt forest (photo courtesy of Will Woodgate)
Published in TERN newsletter August 2019