body top image
Issue 3: Science for Society (page 2)

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

Science and Technology Returns

In the process of benchmarking beneficial uses and applications for Earth science measurements and technology, the Earth Science Applications program is producing significant scientific and technological returns on the federal investment. Activities are underway in each of the twelve applications of national priority. For instance, in the area of community preparedness for disaster management, NASA is integrating science and technology to produce improved warnings and predictions of hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe weather events, thus enabling more cost effective damage mitigation, emergency preparation, and subsequent emergency management with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). With regard to agricultural competitiveness, applications activities is working with the US Department of Agriculture to benchmark predictions of El Nino and La Nina events on our Nation's farmlands. Technologies are being improved to monitor and assess the health and condition of crops and forests around the globe. In aviation safety, measurements and predictions from our weather and environmental satellites are being integrated with other traditional aviation weather information. These are just a few examples of how the NASA works through partnerships to utilize science and technology to serve society.

Benefits to society

The 12 applications of national priority were identified using a specific set of criteria including the consideration of potential socio-economic return, application feasibility, appropriateness for NASA, and partnership opportunities (The Earth Science Applications Plan) The benefits of the program to national needs and societal benefits are significant by design. Examples of NASA contributions include recovery support to events such as the World Trade Center, Hurricane Andrew, Montana wildfires, Hawaiian tsunamis, the Mount Etna volcano erupting, lost aircraft in Montana and California, floods on the Mississippi River. These capabilities have provided critical damage assessments and determination of secondary impacts.

NASA and NOAA researchers have shown that remotely sensed wind speed and direction from QuikSCAT can help detect tropical depressions and hurricanes up to 46 hours earlier than current methods. Hurricane cloud monitoring and wind profile and prediction products from scatterometer (QuikSCAT), Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I), Topex/Poseidon, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), Landsat, Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science (ATLAS), and the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFs) contribute to predicting candidate locations for hurricane landfall and surge, and provide assessments of damage and secondary impacts.

The potential socioeconomic benefits of many of these applications are significant. By minimizing unnecessary emergency evacuation measures, improved hurricane predictions provide as much as $40 million in cost savings for the Nation for each event. The value to our agriculture industry of a "perfect' El Nino forecast is said to be $320 million per year. Similarly, improved weather forecasting can save as much $8 million for individual energy companies by enabling utilities to better plan for anticipated energy requirements.

As only NASA can...

NASA, with its systems engineering experience, is uniquely positioned to benchmark practical uses of NASA observations from remote sensing systems and predictions from scientific research. NASA contributes the initial research and development of aerospace science and technology, and then supports the applications through partnerships with public, private, and academic organizations. These partnerships focus on innovative approaches for using Earth science information to provide decision support information that can be adapted in applications nationwide. NASA recognizes the organizations with the appropriate information infrastructure to apply NASA results from Earth science to meet observational needs to help manage forest fires, coastal environments, agriculture, impacts of infectious diseases, aviation safety, and hurricane forecasting.

Global Drivers

The Earth Science Applications program is recognized as being very timely given the explicit recognition in the Administration and Congress of the value of using Earth Science knowledge to enable and facilitate decision support systems in the public and private sector. On June 11, President Bush announced the establishment of the U.S. Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI) to study areas of scientific uncertainty and to identify priority areas where investments can make a difference. The CCRI promotes a vision focused on the effective use of scientific knowledge in policy and management decisions, and continual evaluation of management strategies and choices. This strategy emerged from a common agreement on priority actions to be taken and is aligned with the National Academy of Sciences recommendations presented in the June 2001 Academy report, entitled "Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions.' Most relevant here, one of the aims of these proposed actions is to develop research and data products that will facilitate the use of scientific knowledge to support policy and management decisions.

NASA conducts the research and development of the aerospace science and technologies that result in Earth observation systems and models of Earth system processes. A hallmark of NASA's Earth science modeling program is the integration of the measurements of key geophysical parameters of Earth processes in science models. An objective is to develop models of the best available understanding of the Earth system. The observations contribute understanding that is captured in algorithms and used to improve predictions of Earth process such as weather and climate. The observation and models that result from NASA research are connected to applications of national priority through assimilation into the policy and management decision-making processes of federal agencies and international organizations.

page 1 | page 2 | page 3 | top  

filler image
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

filler image
body bottom image