Research Title: Monitoring Natural Environmental Change
Funding Level (millions of dollars):
Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Subcommittee on Global Change Research (100%)
(b) Environmental Issue: Climate Change (20%); Ozone and UV radiation (60%); Large-scale changes in Land Use (20%)
(c) Research Activity: System structure and function: Observing (20%); Understanding (80%)
Organizational Component: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO)
National Air and Space Museum (NASM)
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC)
Point of Contact:
Ted A. Maxwell
Monitor and understand indicators of natural and anthropogenic environmental change on daily to decadal time scales, including solar radiation, including UV-B, atmospheric composition, seal level fluctuations, and indicators of desertification.
Monitoring natural environmental change is performed under three programs at SAO, one at NASM, and one at SERC. SAO studies of atmosphere composition, the absorption and transmission of radiation, and atmospheric chemistry (20%). SAO scientists are engaged in an ongoing program to carry out remote sensing measurements of trace species in the stratosphere which will play an important role in ozone chemistry, and in making accurate laboratory measurements of the photo absorption characteristics of atmospheric species in order to provide reliable data for atmospheric models. In order to understand the causes of solar variability and improve our capabilities in making solar predictions, SAO is investigating the basic physical processes responsible for solar activity. We are studying such phenomena as chromospheric and coronal heating, heating and accelerations of the solar wind, the structure of the solar atmosphere, and the role of the Sun's magnetic field. Also at SAO, we are proposing to determine sea level change using space geodetic measurements to correct for vertical crustal motions, and to use these same measurements to study crustal movement. Modern space geodetic reference systems will allow unprecedented accuracy in separating true sea level fluctuations from local crustal motion. NASM Environmental Monitoring of Earth's Drylands. (20%) At NASM, environmental monitoring is focused on dryland sediment transport and climate change, and on the effects of climate change on vegetation dynamics, particularly as viewed from orbit. The objectives are to determine linkages among drought, sand mobility, soil stability and vegetation dynamics, all of which are important components of change on vegetation dynamics, particularly as viewed from orbit. The objectives are to determine linkages among drought, sand mobility, soil stability and vegetation dynamics, all of which are important components of change in areas prone to land degradation (desertification), deforestation, and consequent loss of ecological complexity. Such studies combine the use of remote sensing data with field studies of sites in Africa and Europe. SERC Studies of Ecological Processes. (60%) At SERC, environmental monitoring activities concentrate on long term studies of biological populations, the effects of land use on hydrology, the effects of elevated carbon dioxide concentrations on plant species, ultraviolet-B (UV-B) monitoring in the Chesapeake Bay region, and ecological modeling at a variety of scales. Up to 20 years of continuous monitoring data are now available for a variety of biological and chemical parameters, and experiments such as carbon dioxide chambers which are used to determine the effects of elevated CO 2 on plant species. Spectral radiometers are used to continuously monitor UV-B, and a tunable infrared diode is used to monitor exchange rates between the atmosphere and a mature hardwood forest canopy.
These studies are coordinated with other federal and private efforts via program reviews, competition for funding, and scientific meetings. SAO and NASM receive competitive grants from NASA, and SERC Programs are funded through the SI, NSF, and DOE. SAO satellite measurement programs include the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME) funded by the European Space Agency as a core instrument on their ERS-2 satellite and the Scanning Imaging Absorption spectroMeter for Atmospheric CHemistry (SCIAMACHY) and on the ESA polar platform in 1997.
At SAO, continue laboratory activities to develop an absolute extreme-ultraviolet solar spectral irradiance monitor which can be recalibrated reliably in-orbit., and improve understanding of atmospheric interactions that influence ozone loss. At NASM, continue monitoring of drylands, and determine sediment transport mechanisms due to natural causes for comparison with populated areas. At SERC, determine physiological and ecological changes in response to elevated CO 2 levels.
Each of these programs deals primarily with the structure and function of the environmental system, but all contribute to some degree to other elements. For example, human impact on atmospheric chemistry, dryland ecosystems or even sea level cannot be assessed without knowledge of the natural fluctuations. These programs all contribute to other issues as well. The atmospheric modeling and monitoring work at SAO provides baseline data for studies of air quality; sea level studies are relevant to coastal and marine resources and natural disaster reduction; work at NASM provides reflectance information necessary to study arid region grasses; and monitoring activities at SERC are used for ecological studies of species under different atmospheric conditions.