NASA to use TERN data in ECOSTRESS mission

An exciting new data sharing collaboration between NASA and TERN will lead to a better understanding of how climate change will affect water use by plants from different biomes, and the implications for agricultural and natural ecosystems. Thanks to this collaboration, Australian science will also benefit from the delivery of new NASA data.

NASA’s ECOSTRESS mission will rely on TERN’s data on land-air exchanges of carbon and water captured by TERN’s OzFlux network for the calibration and validation of thermal infrared measurements from the International Space Station (image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In 2018 NASA will launch a new space mission to measure the temperature of vegetation and use that information to better understand the effects of stress on plants and their use of water.  Thanks to another exciting partnership with NASA, the mission will use TERN data to validate and calibrate temperature measurements and ensure that subsequent products are as accurate as possible.

NASA’s new mission, called ECOSTRESS (Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station), will lead to a better understanding of how crops, the biosphere and the global carbon cycle respond to water availability and drought.

“ECOSTRESS will measure plant temperatures in various locations at different times of day for each location using a multispectral thermal infrared radiometer on the International Space Station,” says Dr. Joshua Fisher, the Science Lead for the ECOSTRESS mission from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

The temperature images of Earth’s surface from ECOSTRESS will be the most detailed ever acquired from space and will make it possible to measure the temperature of individual farm paddocks.

To achieve this ECOSTRESS will rely on TERN’s data on land-air exchanges of carbon and water captured by TERN’s OzFlux network. TERN will provide data from 22 flux measurement sites across Australia for the calibration and validation of thermal infrared measurements from the International Space Station.

“Our collaboration with TERN and use of their data is very useful in the process of validating the data we receive from ECOSTRESS and making sure the products delivered by NASA JPL are as accurate as possible,” says Joshua.

TERN OzFlux will begin providing access to data for pre-launch preparation activities within the next six months, leading up to the launch of ECOSTRESS planned for 2018.  These data will include energy fluxes (latent, sensible and ground), gross primary productivity, air temperature (above canopy and at 2 m height), vapour pressure deficit, net solar radiation, individual components of radiation fluxes (upwelling and downwelling, solar and thermal), PAR, barometric pressure, precipitation, RH, wind speed and direction, and soil temperature and moisture content.

NASA’s collaboration with TERN on the ECOSTRESS mission follows the success of TERN’s role in NASA’s soil moisture active passive (SMAP) mission.  Dr Natasha Stavros of NASA JPL says that a large part of the reason TERN has been invited to collaborate with the new ECOSTRESS mission is the high quality, consistency and efficient delivery of data for SMAP.

“The data we received from TERN for our SMAP Level 4 carbon product calibration/validation activities was of the highest quality, so when designing the ECOSTRESS Level 2-4 calibration/validation plan, it was a high priority to include their network that covers diverse ecosystems,” says Natasha

Importantly, data will be provided to NASA via the TERN-developed OzFluxQC File Transfer Protocol (ftp), which ensures that metadata and licence information is not lost in the transfer—as per existing partnerships with SMAP and FluxNet.

Data sharing to advance Australian science

TERN’s new partnership with NASA’s JPL is also set to benefit TERN’s users, partners and the broader Australia science community. After launch, ECOSTRESS will provide TERN and other global partners with spatially explicit parameters for model and remote sensing work:  radiometric corrections, land surface temperature and emissivity, clouds, evapotranspiration, evaporative stress index and water-use efficiency.

Access to these data via TERN will enable Australian researchers to undertake and deliver useful analyses for the Australian continent that wouldn’t be possible without the new data stream.

Dr David Schimel, also of NASA JPL, says that TERN’s partnerships with NASA in this and other NASA JPL missions (SMAP and OCO-2) and the data being made openly available via TERN are contributing to the next generation of ecosystem models.

“We’re proud to have TERN eMAST as the ECOSTRESS ecosystem model development partner after the success of our SMAP mission,” says David. “We’re working with Australian scientists who are using SMAP data to significantly improve continental scale ecosystem models of landscape management, carbon accounting and climate prediction.”

Global problems need global solutions and our international collaborations with NASA are not one of a kind here at TERN.  TERN has strong connections with analogous organisations across the globe including with International Long-Term Ecological Research (ILTER); FluxNet; National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), USA; Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems (AnaEE), Europe; South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), South Africa; Japan Long-Term Ecological Research (JaLTER), Japan; Philippine Long-Term Ecological Research (Philippine ILTER), The Philippines; Chinese Ecological Research Network (CERN), China; Korea Ecological Observatory Network (KEON), Korea; and DataONE in the USA.

It is these international collaborations that are allowing us to present Australian ecosystem science to the world and advance Australia’s research standing globally.

TERN is proud to be fostering a significant transformation in the way ecosystem science is done in this country—part of a global movement to more collaboration, partnerships and solutions involving working across previously siloed disciplines, projects and organisations.

  • TERN has formalised this new partnership in November 2016 with an addendum to the MOU previously enacted between TERN and NASA JPL for the SMAP mission.  This MOU was enacted between NASA JPL and TERN last year and formally designated two Calibration and Validation partners amongst the TERN facilities:  TERN OzFlux as a flux data provider (schedule B) and TERN eMAST as a model development partner (schedule C).
  • Anyone interested in collaborating further with TERN can contact TERN’s Director of Collaborations and Partnerships, Associate Professor Nikki Thurgate.

Published in TERN newsletter November 2016

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