Earth's Most Precious Resource To Be Monitored By New Scientific Satellite

First Posted: May 10, 2013 04:13 PM EDT

The satellite code-named 'Biomass', designed to map and monitor one of "Earth's most precious resources", was selected to become the seventh Earth Explorer mission by the European Space Agency.

The ESA's Earth Observation Programme Board meeting reviewed three candidate concepts this week and chose the Biomass mission concept to become the next in a series of satellites developed to further our understanding of Earth.

ESA reported that the satellite will be designed to provide, for the first time from space, P-band radar measurements that are optimised to determine the amount of biomass and carbon stored in the world's forests with greater accuracy than ever before.

Even though we are in the 21st century and have thousands of satellites and advanced microtechnology, this crucial information for one of our planetary biosphere's core mechanisms is still poorly known in the tropics, although it is essential to our understanding of the role of forests in Earth's carbon cycle and in climate change.

Reliable knowledge of tropical forest biomass also underpins the implementation of the UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative - an international effort to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and land degradation in developing countries.

'Biomass' will also be able to map the elevation of Earth's terrain under dense vegetation, yielding information on subsurface geology and allowing the estimation of glacier and ice-sheet velocities, critical to our understanding of ice-sheet mass loss in a warming Earth.

The Biomass satellite could also be evolved into an operational system, providing long-term monitoring of forests - one of Earth's most important natural resources. The launch of the mission is foreseen for 2020.

Three Earth Exploration missions are currently in orbit and are providing new insight into Earth's cryosphere, gravity and soil moisture and ocean salinity. Other future missions will provide new information on the magnetic field, wind and how clouds and aerosols affect the radiation budget.

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