Earth Science Enterprise

Special Sessions at IGARSS01
The Earth Science Enterprise Vision

NASA’s Office of Earth Science presented two sessions for the IGARSS 2001 meeting held in Sydney, Australia during July 2001. The sessions’ themes were complementary, the first focusing on NASA’s vision for remote sensing of the Earth over the next 20 years and the second focusing on crucial technological capabilities needed to realize the vision. These sessions were presented under IGARSS’ Category A – "Missions and Programs."


A million miles from Earth, deep space sentinels monitor our atmosphere day and night, feeding cloud and temperature data to scientists’ models to produce a ten year forecast of climate variability. Closer to Earth, observations from satellites and buoys enable a 15 month advance warning of the next El Nino event. Region-specific, seasonal forecasts of precipitation are updated, allowing farmers in the southeastern U.S. to select between drought and flood-resistant crops, and Forest Service officials to redistribute fire fighting resources based on adjusted fire potential indices. Meanwhile, a combination of sensors measuring wind vectors and precipitation rates drives a 3-D model of the structure of Hurricane Hattie, enabling the U.S. Hurricane Center to optimize the landfall prediction and minimize the evacuation area.

More than 40% of the U.S. economy is sensitive to weather and climate. Between 1991 and 1995, the average annual weather-related damage in the U.S. was in excess of $17 billion per year, accompanying a death rate of 500 persons per year. Much of the world is even more sensitive to weather, climate and natural hazards than is the U.S. As more people and assets in the U.S. move to the coasts, and as nations around the world seek to increase living standards for their growing populations, proactive Earth system predictions will become even more essential.

NASA envisions a future where proactive Earth system prediction enables a richer relationship of people with our home planet. This includes all the means and benefits of climate, weather, and natural hazard prediction, such as:

  • 10 year climate forecasts
  • 15-20 month El Nino / La Nina prediction
  • 12 month regional rainfall rate prediction
  • 5 day hurricane track prediction to +/- 30 Km
  • 2 day air quality notification
  • 1 hour volcano and earthquake warning
  • 30 minute tornado warning.

To support this, the Earth Science Enterprise has developed a twenty-five year vision of future capabilities to observe, understand and forecast the state of the Earth for the benefit of a world-wide public.

NASA's vision is to greatly extend the frontiers of knowledge in the understanding of Earth systems behavior and response and to more firmly establish and predict the links between the environment and human activity. NASA with a broad range of national and international partners will enable the gathering, synthesis, and distribution of this information rapidly to scientists, businesses, governments, and the general public. This great increase in knowledge will aid decision-makers in providing for fundamental improvements in social and economic well being throughout the world.

This Vision implies broad national, international, and commercial partnering and commitment among all constituents—scientists, technologists, and, ultimately, the vast user community and decision-making leaders that will apply the capabilities and information to their array of interests, situations, and time frames. The Earth Science Vision for the 21st century and some of its supporting technologies will be presented through two technical sessions described below.

Session 1
 An Earth Science Vision: Sensing the Health of the Planet in the 21st Century
July 9, 2001
Granville Paules, Chair; Franco Einaudi, Co-chair

This session introduced the concept through a series of invited papers presenting focused implementation scenarios and highlighted the scientific and technological challenges anticipated for enabling it. The Session closed with reaction and commentary by a panel of international space program leaders and managers.

A brief overview introduced the concept followed by specific papers that provided focused implementation opportunities and challenges. The following 5 papers were presented for this session.

Paper Titles:

  • Mastering the Weather Prediction Nemesis
  • Living with a Restless Earth
  • Enhancing our Biological and Ecological Predictive Capabilities--Seeing the World through a Global Microscope
  • Pathways to Predicting Atmospheric Composition
  • Ocean, Ice, and Climate: The Slow Dance of a Complex System
  • The Earth Science Vision: An Intelligent Web of Sensors

  • Formal presentations ended with a computer-generated video illustrating a concept for how the Vision could be implemented.  Using an interactive web of intelligent sensors, the Earth Science research and applications infrastructure responsively provides critical information to a highly distributed and diverse set of global users.

    Panel Discussion
    Evolving From Today's Remote Sensing Concepts, Partnering on a Global Basis,
    Key Early Implementation Considerations and Challenges

    Participating Panelists:

      Dr. Charles Elachi Director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
      Dr. Franco Einaudi Director Earth Sciences, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
    Dr. Charles Hutchinson Director of Applications and Outreach, NASA Office of Earth Science, NASA Headquarters
    Colonel Frank Hinnant Principal Deputy Program Director, NASA/NOAA/DoD Integrated Program Office
    Dr. Shimoda ADEOS/GCOM Program Manager and Chair to the CEOS sponsored International Global Observing Stratey

    Session 2
    Earth Science Technology Challenges: Supporting NASA's Earth Science Vision
    July 10, 2001
    George Komar, Chair; Glenn Prescott, Co-chair

    This session focused on technical aspects of future systems and the need to gain scientific knowledge that sustains the technology advancements needed to build such systems. It included examples of how future technological capabilities provide solutions that enable the ES vision. Also, session papers described new remote sensing technologies that will provide crucial measurements required by Earth Scientists to better understand our planet and to accurately model the behavior of its atmospheric and solid-Earth processes. The following eight papers were be presented in this session.

    Paper Titles:

  • Earth Science System Of The Future: Observing, Processing, and Delivering Data Products Directly to Users
  • The Future of Instrument Technology for Space-based Remote Sensing
  • Information System Technology Challenges for NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise
  • Achieving the Earth Science Enterprise Vision for the 21st Century: Platform Challenges
  • A Geosynchronous LIDAR System for Atmospheric Winds, Temperature, and Moisture Measurements
  • A Geosynchronous Synthetic Aperture Radar Provides for Disaster Management, Measurement of Soil Moisture, and Measurement Of Earth-Surface Dynamics
  • Interferometric Characterization of the Earth’s Atmosphere from Lagrange Point 2
  • Processors, Pipelines, and Protocols for Advanced Modeling Networks
  • [ Top of Page ]