Organization: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Research Title: Geology Program

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 6.0
FY95 4.4
FY96 3.9

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
Subcommittee: Natural Disaster Reduction (40%); Global Change (40%); Natural Resource Use and Management (20%) Env. Issue: Scientific and technical advances to reduce vulnerability (30%) Impacts of natural hazards on the human environment (20%) Exploratory research into systematic changes in the dynamics of the crust, atmosphere, and ocean (30%) Natural variability, including seasonal-to-interannual forecasting and past changes in climate (20%) Research Activity System structure and function (80%); Observations (40%); Understanding (60%) Assessments - Risk Assessment (20%)

Organizational Component:
Solid Earth Branch
Science Division
Office of Mission to Planet Earth
NASA Headquarters
Washington DC 20546

Point of Contact:
Miriam Baltuck
Phone: 202-358-0273

Research Goals:
To improve our knowledge of the formation and evolution of the Earth's surface and continental crust, its interaction with the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere, and the processes responsible for short and long-term changes to it including those responsible for natural hazards through the development of remote sensing systems, and the measurement and analysis of space and airborne remote sensing, field, and laboratory data.

Research Description:
In achieving its goal, the Geology Program focuses on the four research thrusts listed below:

To map, characterize, and analyze features of the land surface to understand the interaction of aggredational and degredational processes of the earth systems related to development of the landscape and assess the effects of natural hazards and global environmental changes upon these features. The Earth's land surface is the boundary where interactions among the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere occur. It is largely determined by internal tectonic processes and is subsequently modified by denudation controlled primarily by climate and gravitational forces, and biologic activity, and natural hazards. Accurate knowledge of this surface and its evolution is vital to assess the affects of natural disasters and future global changes.

To observe and monitor the structure and deformation of the Earth's surface to understand, assess, and mitigate the affects of geologic hazards, and to understand the formation and evolution of continental crust. Plate tectonics theory has provided a global framework from which to understand large-scale geologic and geodynamic processes and the history of the lithosphere. However, the theory does not address most of the dynamical processes specific to continental regions. Improved knowledge of the evolution and rheology of continents provides background for predicting the temporal and spatial patterns of crustal deformation and is of critical importance for understanding, assessing, and mitigating the affects of natural hazards.

To observe, model, and understand volcano-atmosphere interactions and assess the influence of volcanic activity on society and on past, present and future global and climate change. The recognition of the sensitivity of climate to external (particularly anthropogenic) forcings has resulted in an intensive search for casual connections in the climate system to permit reliable, objective decisions on environmental policy to be made. These connections are formulated through climate model which, in turn, are developed and tested through study of climate records ranging from the present back to past centuries.

To measure at unprecedented levels of accuracy, and monitor temporal changes in, the topography of the Earth's surface and ice caps in order to study the processes of topographic evolution, land subsidence, and assessment and mitigation of natural disasters. Less than 25% of the Earth surface topography is recorded digitally at a scale fine enough to conduct detailed processes studies or be utilized to calibrate properly remotely sensed observations. The Geology Program has supported the development and improvement of two technologies, multibeam laser altimetry and interferometric synthetic aperture radar. Aircraft systems and are the basis for development of a proposed Topography and Surface Change Satellite (TOPSAT) flight project that will map the observe and monitor changes in the Earth's continental and ice cap topography at 30 meter horizontal resolution and 1-2 meters vertical accuracy.

Program Interfaces:
The Geology Program is part of the Solid Earth Program, the goal of which is improve understanding of the evolution, structure, and dynamics of the Earth through measurement and analysis of space-based geodetic, remote sensing, space-based geopotential, field, laboratory, and related data. This is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth to better understand the Earth as a system, the global environment and how it is changing. The program is responsive to the U.S. Global Change Research Program and coordinates with other federal agencies, through the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction, including DOD. Internationally, the program is responsive to the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction, participates in the US/Japan Science and Technology Agreement, and coordinates research with numerous organizations in Italy, France, Germany, Australia.

Program Milestones:
1) Fall 1995 Implement Topography and Surface Change program element. Summer 1995 begin operations of airborne L-Band SAR interferometer for measuring high resolution topography and topographic changes. 3) Summer 1995 Definition of Spaceborne system for monitoring global land/ice topography and its changes.

Policy Payoffs:
: 1) Better characterization of the interaction of the land surface and its interactions with atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere; 2) Better understanding of the shape and changes in the shape of the Earth's surface as a indication of impending natural hazards and/or reducing the risk imposed by them. 3) Better understanding of short- term changes to climate/weather and hazards imposed by explosive volcanic eruptions. \