Press Release

NASA Selects Proposals to Study Earth’s Environment

By SpaceRef Editor
July 3, 2001
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What element do some researchers jokingly call the
“triple whammy” or the “complete trifecta”? It’s carbon —
not only the very basis of life, but also the principal
source of fossil fuel energy supporting the economy and a key
factor in controlling global climate.

NASA will learn much more about the global carbon cycle
through 80 research grants valued at approximately $50
million over the next three years that will look at
everything from forest health in the U.S. to the role oceans
play as the planet’s “air filters.”

Carbon-containing molecules are a key factor in global
warming — carbon dioxide and methane are the two most
important “greenhouse gases” that can affect temperatures
around the world. Combustion of fossil fuels, use of land for
agriculture or industry, and human interaction with the
environment all play a part in how Earth’s climate “behaves.”
Through these awards, researchers will take advantage of the
unique vantage point of space and space-age technology to
look at the planet and how the global climate works.

“These proposals represent the leading edge of research on
the carbon cycle and how it affects our climate. The
Administration is committed to providing sound science to
government and industry leaders upon which decisions about
human stewardship of the Earth can be made,” said Dr. Ghassem
Asrar, Associate Administrator for Earth Science, NASA
Headquarters, Washington, DC.

“We know that about half of the carbon dioxide released by
humans is absorbed by Earth’s oceans and lands. These
investigations will help scientists and policy-makers better
understand if this will be true in the decades to come,”
Asrar said.

“A solid understanding of how carbon cycles act among land,
atmosphere and oceans will provide a vital key to reliable
projections of carbon levels of the future, and hence a
better understanding of what role humans are playing in
Earth’s climate system. Combined with advances in
computational-modeling capabilities, and in teaming with
other government agencies and international partners, NASA
will advance short-term and seasonal weather forecasting
capabilities and create an accurate projection of longer-term
climate change around the globe. This research also will
benefit our short-term weather and seasonal-prediction
capabilities,” Asrar said.

The grants will go to researchers at universities, government
laboratories and other organizations and will investigate
virtually all aspects of the carbon cycle. Scientists will
use everything from advanced computers, satellites and lasers
to aircraft and other conventional tools to carry out these
studies. Applications scientists will extend the benefits of
this research to a variety of end users. NASA received 288
proposals in response to the research announcement made in
2000.

A complete listing of the research projects and their
principal investigators can be found on the Internet at:

http://research.hq.nasa.gov/

More information on NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise, a long-
term research effort dedicated to understanding how human-
induced and natural change affects the global environment,
can be found at:

http://earth.nasa.gov

SpaceRef staff editor.