Home Science Climate How high are the forests? Ask NASA

The U.S. space agency NASA has produced the world's first map of the height of all Earth's forests. The map will help scientists learn more about the carbon cycle and its affect on our atmosphere.


According to the July 19, 2010 NASA media brief 'First Map Of Global Forest Heights Created From NASA Data,' NASA used the following three satellites to generate the map:

(1) NASA's Terra (EOS AM-1, which is part of NASA's Earth Observing System [EOS]),

(2) NASA's Aqua (EOS PM-1, also a component of NASA's EOS, and

(3) Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat, a third part of NASA's EOS).

The NASA article states, 'Maps of local and regional forest canopy have been produced before, but the new map is the first that spans the entire globe using one uniform method.'

Dr. Michael Lefsky, from the Department of Forest, Rangeland, and Watershed Stewardship at Colorado State University (Ft. Collins) published a paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that summarizes the work performed to produce this one-of-a-kind map. It will appear in the August 2010 issue of the journal.

The images produced by the satellite collaboration found that the world's tallest forests are in the Pacific Northwest (of North America) and in Southeast Asia.

The technology that allowed the map to be produced is called Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR).

It is a laser system onboard the satellite ICESat that provides 'vertical slices of forest canapy height' by sending pulses of electromagnetic radiation (light) toward Earth, toward its surface and the top of the trees.

Page two continues with more details of the world's forest-height mission by NASA.

 

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William Atkins

William Atkins completed educational degrees in science (bachelor’s in physics and mathematics) from Illinois State University (Normal, United States) and business (master’s in entrepreneurship and bachelor’s in industrial relations) from Western Illinois University

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