Press Release

NASA and Maryland Researcher Recognized for Data that Provides Clues to Earth’s Changing Climate,

By SpaceRef Editor
December 18, 2009
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NASA and Maryland Researcher Recognized for Data that Provides Clues to Earth’s Changing Climate,

WASHINGTON — A NASA-led team has been recognized with a prestigious award for helping scientists better understand our home planet. NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior presented the William T. Pecora Award to the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System, or CERES, team and to Forrest Hall, senior research scientist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

The two agencies present individual and group Pecora Awards to honor outstanding contributions in the field of remote sensing and its application to understanding Earth. The award was established in 1974 to honor the memory of William T. Pecora, former director of the U.S. Geological Survey and under secretary of the Department of the Interior.

This year’s award was presented Dec. 17 in San Francisco during the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The presentation was made by Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Norman Loeb and Bruce Wielicki of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., accepted the award on behalf of the CERES team.

Led from Langley, the CERES team has compiled a critical data set for monitoring and predicting climate change. The data set, which comes from five instruments on three spacecraft, is being used to improve our understanding of the natural and human-induced changes in the climate through accurate measurements of the Earth’s radiative energy balance. This balance is the amount of energy Earth receives from the sun and keeps in the atmosphere or radiates back into space. Along with measurements of oceans, land, snow, ice, clouds, aerosols and meteorology, CERES data products provide a scientific basis for developing global environmental policies.

“CERES is a major NASA success story,” said Freilich. “The team has made an exceptional contribution to understanding the Earth system. This interagency, academic, international effort has resulted in critical data that, among other benefits, has supported the conclusions of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

The CERES instruments provide highly accurate measurements of the radiative energy balance at multiple layers in the atmosphere. In addition, the CERES team developed a rapid-response product that provides a measure of the amount of solar energy at Earth’s surface. These data are used by agricultural resource managers to gauge soil moisture and by engineers monitoring and designing solar power applications.

Forrest Hall has been instrumental in advancing remote sensing of Earth since the inception of the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (now known as the Landsat program) that NASA launched in 1972. Hall developed technologies for the remote sensing of vegetation, provided high-quality global data sets to the community and contributed to the science on which remote sensing was founded — both through his leadership of major field programs and his own research.

Hall’s research contributed to solving a number of crucial problems in remote-sensing science concerned with interpreting images gathered over vegetated areas. He was involved from the very start of land surface remote sensing while working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on large-scale agricultural assessments. These pioneering efforts by NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture involved some of the earliest work in comparing surface, airborne and satellite data.

Hall also led the Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study, or BOREAS, which resulted in a major advance in our understanding of the role of the far northern boreal forests in climate change. Hall’s efforts in this study led to a better understanding of North America’s carbon, water and energy cycles.

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SpaceRef staff editor.