Earth Science Enterprise

Special Sessions at IGARSS 2002
An Earth Science Vision: Pathways to Implementation

[ Slide presentation by Dr. Ghassem Asrar ]

NASA's Office of Earth Science sponsored two sessions for the IGARSS 2002 meeting held in Toronto, Canada during June 2002.  The sessions were based on NASA’s Earth Science Vision’s science goals over the next 20 years and on the new technological capabilities needed to realize this vision.  The sessions highlighted the need for broad international and multi-agency collaboration to enable these capabilities.

Dr. Ghassem Ashrar


Human activities and the economies of large continental regions are highly sensitive to fluctuations in climate and weather. In the United States alone, the average annual weather-related damage exceeded $17 billion per year during the 1991-1995 period, with about 500 fatalities per year.  Worse, much of the world is considerably more sensitive than the United States to changes in climate, weather, and to other natural hazards. The effects of changing climate and weather are continuously increasing as worldwide populations grow and as the human population moves closer to the coasts and other sources of water. The Earth Science Vision transitions from the 5-10 year, near term planning for observational upgrades including NPOESS and other observational systems, to enhance the understanding of the Earth system by providing needed measurements of Earth from space that and by enabling observations of changes in climate and weather.

The Earth Sciences Vision initiative foresees a transition from the observational paradigm of near term future planning to the predictive paradigm of 20 years hence. The Earth Sciences Vision of the future is that the Earth’s climate and all its facets—climate, severe weather, the biosphere and ecosystems, Earth surface processes—will be accurately understood, and climate changes and their effects on human habitability of Earth will be foreseen. The science issues of the NASA Earth Science Vision include long term climatic trends which, for example, can occur over many years and can effect the availability of water; short term climatic variability over seasons to a few years can result in changes in whole ecosystems; and the resultant changes in the biosphere and whole ecosystems that can then effects food supplies. Severe weather—tropical storms and outbreaks of severe convective weather or winter storms—can product great destruction that severely limits commerce. Solid Earth processes such as volcanism, earthquakes, and changes in global ice and sea level can have profound effects on human activities. The effects of these Earth processes all grow as the human population increases.

With a broad range of national and international partners NASA 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. Achievement of this vision will enable a richer relationship of people with our home planet.  The NASA Earth Science Vision for the 21st century and some of its supporting technologies will be presented through two technical sessions described below.

Science Session
An Earth Science Vision: Science Pathways and Predictive Capability
June 24, 2002
Warren Wiscombe, Chair; Gran Paules, Co-chair

This session introduces a vision of a future in which the Earth's atmospheric system is understood, and long-term changes in climate can be predicted.  A series of invited papers highlight major scientific challenges that lie on the path to understanding that will enable prediction of far-term climate changes that affect our habitat.  An overview presentation will introduce the overall concept and will followed by science-topic papers that provide focused implementation opportunities, and that highlight specific science challenges.  The session will close with commentary from a panel of international space program leaders and managers.  


  • An Earth Science Vision for 2025: NASA's Perspective
  • Predicting Long-tern Climate Change
  • Biological Diversity: A Challenge in Ecological Forecasting
  • Understanding Sea Level Changes
  • Understanding and Responding to Earthquake Hazards
  • Planning of the Integrated Global Strategy (IGOS) - An Ocean Theme Example

Panel Discussion
Earth Science Vision of the Future: A Perspective on International Cooperation

[ Video of the Panel Discussion ]

Participating panelists:

  Dr. Ghassem Asrar NASA, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
  Mr. Surendra Parashar Canadian Space Agency, Canada
Dr. Yoji Furuhama   NASDA, Japan

Technology Session
An Earth Science Vision: Technology Pathways and Challenges for 2025
June 25, 2002
Mariann Albjerg, Chair; Peter Hildebrand, Co-chair

This session focused on technical aspects of mid-term to future systems and the need to gain scientific knowledge that sustains the technology advancements needed for such systems.  The session included examples of how planned and future technological capabilities provide solutions needed to enable the Earth Science 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. 


  • A Web of Sensors: Enabling the Earth Science Vision
  • The Afternoon Constellation: A Formation of Earth Observing Systems for the Atmosphere and Hydrosphere
  • GIFTS – The Precursor Geostationary Satellite Component of a Future Earth Observing System
  • Stratospheric Satellites for Earth Science Applications
  • L1 and L2 Observatories in the Post-2010 Era
  • Lightweight Deployable UV/Visible/IR Telescopes
  • Needs for Intelligent Distributed Spacecraft Infrastructure
  • Needs for Communications and Onboard Processing in the Vision Era
  • Evolving Ground Systems Architecture Requirements for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS)
  • MODIS Direct Broadcast and Rapid Response Capabilities: Getting Information to Operational Decisionmakers

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