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Issue 3: Science for Society (page 1)

Science for Society: Extending Earth Science Research Results into Decision Support Tools

Ronald J. Birk, Director of the Applications Division and Tsengdar Lee, Information Systems Specialist
Scientific Data Office of Earth Science, NASA Headquarters
Washington, DC

NASA's mission is driven by the pursuit of science, exploration and discovery:

To understand and protect our home planet;
To explore the Universe and search for life;
To inspire the next generation of explorers only NASA can.

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Guided by this mission, NASA has established a set of goals that are outlined in the NASA 2003 Plan (PPT, 14.4 MB).

In the NASA Strategic Plan, the Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) plays a leading role in the goal to "understand Earth's system and apply Earth System Science to improve the prediction of climate, weather, and natural hazards.' An objective of conducting research in Earth system science is to ensure that the resulting knowledge is used to enhance decision support for society. Federal agencies and international organizations use decision support systems to deliver Earth science knowledge and information that result in economic and environmental security for applications of national priority.

For example, NASA Earth system science research results can benefit the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as it contributes to aviation management through the National Airspace System (NAS); the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as it contributes to disaster risk management through the Hazards US (HAZUS) system; and the Environmental Protection Agency as it contributes to air quality management through the Community Multi-scale Air Quality (CMAQ) system.

Earth Science Applications Program Overview

The Earth Science Applications program of the NASA Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) benchmarks practical uses of NASA-sponsored observations from remote sensing systems and predictions from Earth system science research and modeling. NASA implements projects through partnerships with public, private, and academic organizations. These partnerships focus on innovative approaches for using Earth science information to provide decision support that can be adapted in applications worldwide.

The program focuses on applications of national priority to expand and accelerate the use of knowledge, science, and technologies resulting from the ESE mission of improving predictions in weather, climate, and natural hazards. The approach is to enable the assimilation of Earth Science model and remote sensing mission outputs to serve as inputs to decision support systems (see Figure 1). The outcomes are manifest in enhanced decision support and the impacts are projected to result in significant socio-economic benefits for each of the national applications.

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NASA ESE has identified twelve (12) national applications (with partner federal agencies) that can be served by NASA aerospace research and development of science and technologies:

  1. Enhanced weather predication for Energy Forecasting (DOE, EPA)
  2. Weather/climate prediction for Agriculture Efficiency (USDA, DOE)
  3. Carbon sequestration assessment for Carbon Management (USDA, DOE, EPA)
  4. Digital atmosphere and terrain for Aviation Safety for transportation (DOT/FAA)
  5. Early warning systems for air and water quality for Homeland Security (DHS, NIMA, USGS)
  6. Environmental indicators for Community Growth Management (EPA, USGS, NSGIC)
  7. Integrated hurricane and flooding prediction for Disaster Management (FEMA, NOAA)
  8. Early warning systems for vector-borne infectious diseases for Public Health (NIH, CDC)
  9. Environmental indicators for Coastal Management (NOAA)
  10. Environmental models for Invasive Species (USGS, USDA)
  11. Water cycle science for Water Management and Conservation (EPA, USDA)
  12. Regional to national to international atmospheric measurements and predictions for Air Quality Management (EPA, NOAA)

NASA's Vision

NASA's vision starts with "to improve life here'. The Earth Science Applications program contributes to the NASA mission through the ESE mission to improve predictions in weather, climate and natural hazards by enabling and facilitating the assimilation of Earth observations and predictions outputs into decision support tools. The purpose is to enhance the performance of the decision support resources to serve citizens.

The initiative directly addresses NASA's mission statements.

1. To understand and protect our home planet: Space-based measurements acquired by NASA Earth observing systems contribute greatly to our understanding and ability to forecast weather, climate patterns and natural hazards. The NASA research results are applicable to improving aviation safety, homeland security, natural resource management, community management, and energy efficiency. NASA research is to used improve economic security, homeland security and national security. Through focused collaborations with other federal agencies, the Earth Science Applications program works with partners to benchmark the use of Earth science research results in decision support systems. These partnerships enable NASA results to provide essential contributions to increase the quality of life in our world.

2. To explore the Universe and search for life: Techniques used to harness Earth system science data and information for decision support systems can potentially demonstrate applications of observations and information technologies for the study of other planets in our solar system. Comparative studies between our planet and others in our solar system are useful for developing new ways of understanding the evolution of our planet's systems as well as assisting in the development of the next generation of observational systems for deriving new and useful information for exploration.

3. To inspire the next generation of explorers: Understanding how the Earth works and environmental awareness are topics that challenge and excite the youth of today. NASA's ability to bring real scientific breakthroughs to youth through a variety of different venues opens doors for future scientists and engineers by creating excitement about studying the earth. People are inspired by innovative means of solving important issues that affect our world and the realization that research and development of aerospace science and technologies can provide meaningful solutions to critical needs on Earth has proven to be very inspirational to people of all ages. The Earth Science Applications program works closely with the Earth Science Education program to see that the results and successes of these various projects are communicated to the public.

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Issue No. 3:
Remote Sensing of Earth
via Satellite

Winter 2003

General Editor Introduction

From the Guest Editors

Introduction to Remote Sensing

A Tutorial:
p. 1
, p. 2

Science for Society:
p. 1
, p. 2, p. 3

AmericaView Consortium

Remote Sensing Satellites:
p. 1
, p. 2

Online Resources

Research and Applications

Critical Perspectives

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