Potential Contributions of Remote Sensing/GIS to NASA EPSCoR

A report by the Remote Sensing/GIS Team

Prepared by Maribeth H. Price, with grateful acknowledgement for the assistance of Rand Feind, Ed Duke, Bill Capehart, and Lee Vierling.



The high variability of northern prairie wetlands in the United States and Canada has strong relevance to water quality issues. These wetlands, called "potholes" or "sloughs," are post-glacial depressions ranging from large permanent shallow lakes to smaller ephemeral basins (Woo and Roswell, 1993; Labaugh et al., 1998). The larger basins often contain a permanent wetland or lake surrounded by progressively more ephemeral wetlands (Cowardin, 1982; Poiani and Johnson, 1993; Poiani et al., 1996), and are of great interest for surface and groundwater hydrology (Winter and Rosenberry, 1995). In abnormally wet years when the water table is close to the surface, these systems can overflow their normal basins, create large contiguous water bodies and long-term flooding, and carry agricultural chemicals from soils to nearby streams. Moreover, they influence the availability of land for agricultural purposes, as well as form potential catchments to collect fertilizer runoff. The characteristics of prairie wetlands also make them an important factor in regional climate conditions. By holding water at the surface they influence the evapotranspiration, soil moisture, land cover, and albedo of the region. The sharp moisture contrasts of wetland areas against neighboring uplands, as well as the regional perspective contrasting against the drier grasslands west of the Missouri River may also enhance the local atmospheric circulation, potentially altering pre-storm environments (Lanicci et al., 1987; Chang and Wetzel, 1991). This can feedback on surface water quality via storm runoff. Because of their importance in regional flooding and water quality issues, combined with the challenge of predicting their status both spatially and temporally, the pothole region is receiving much attention among researchers in South Dakota. At the present time, a team of researchers across the state are planning a major proposal to the NASA EPSCoR program to study the prairie wetlands.

This report describes the potential research questions, knowledge gaps, and contributions of remote sensing and GIS to the study of prairie wetlands and the preparation of the proposal.

Role of remote sensing and GIS in NASA EPSCoR pothole research

To effectively study the potholes we need their location, classification, and capacity and, as a function of time, their size, depth, boundary, and volume. Deriving this information at and between various scales, and relating between them, is a major challenge. An efficacious method for determining the last four metrics from satellite data is also a major deficiency or gap. Once these issues are addressed we can begin to estimate regional fluxes of mass, energy, and trace gases due to potholes. This data can also be useful in the development and validation of a models.

Specific research areas that could be addressed include 

The value of any research effort depends largely on the dissemination of its results, and a proposal’s plan for data archiving and dissemination is receiving much attention from reviewers these days. Therefore, an additional role of remote sensing/GIS in the greater NASA EPSCoR research effort includes

Potential Linkages with NASA Centers

In the EPSCoR NRA "collaborative" appears at least 6 times in 4 pages. The following are phases that appear in the announcement that I think are noteworthy when considering our research plans:

"... each consortium must demonstrate direct ties to NASA Centers and Enterprises ..."

"... begin research activities in area of strategic importance to the Agency."

"... initiate discussions of possible collaborative research activities."

"... discuss current consortium research activities and expertise, and plans for future collaborations."

"All proposals should clearly indicate with which NASA Center/Centers the proposed research activities will align."

Rand Feind gleaned the following list of NASA Centers from the site (http://ednet.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsrp/1999/solicitation/index_register.html). It is for the Graduate Student Research Program (GSRP) and contains a listing of all the NASA Centers and a short mission statement for each enterprise at each center. Rand excised the mission statement for each enterprise in which he thought we could show relevance. They are listed somewhat in the order that we might best might show relevance to our prairie potholes research.

Hydrometeorology/Land Surface Interface (MSFC)

Earth's surface characteristics and their linkages to the atmosphere and hydrologic cycles are being analyzed and modeled using remotely sensed data. Measurements from satellite and aircraft sensors, in conjunction with in situ measurements, are used to study spatial and spectral resolution and temporal variability effects on determination of land surface energy fluxes, hydrometeorological characteristics, and biophysical components. The affects of spatial and temporal scale on land surface interface processes is assessed using mesoscale hydrometeorological and Global Circulation Models. Geographic information systems play an important research role in integrating and modeling remote sensing and ancillary data for analysis of the spatial and temporal dynamics of land surface hydrometeorological interactions.
Contact: D. Quattrochi (256) 922-5887

Hydrological Sciences Branch (GSFC)

The Hydrological Sciences Branch conducts research activities that contribute to an improved understanding of the exchange of water between the Earth's surface and its atmosphere. These research activities emphasize the use of remote sensing over a wide range of electromagnetic frequencies as a means of studying various hydrological processes and states, such as precipitation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, snow and ice cover, and fluxes of moisture and energy. In addition, advanced numerical and analytical models are developed.
Contact: E. Engman (301) 614-5733

Laboratory for Hydrospheric Processes (GSFC)

The Laboratory performs theoretical and experimental research on various components of hydrology and its role in the complete Earth science system. The program is aimed at observing, understanding, and modeling the global oceans and ice, surface water, and mesoscale atmospheric processes. The Laboratory conducts research on Earth observational systems and techniques associated with remote and in-situ sensing.
Contact: Antonio Busalacchi (301) 614-5671

Biospheric Studies (GSFC)

These include research on terrestrial ecosystem-atmosphere interactions, and ecological patterns and processes occurring at local, regional and continental spatial scales, as well as basic remote sensing research. A wide variety of remote sensing models and passive and active instruments are used to develop a fundamental understanding of the interaction of electromagnetic radiation with terrestrial surfaces. Laboratory, field, aircraft, and satellite investigations are used to characterize the spectral distribution, bi-directional reflectance, and polarization response of terrain features at visible, infrared and microwave frequencies. Techniques are developed to create, process, and analyze multi-year global datasets. Time series of satellite data are used to study the seasonal dynamics of global vegetation, interannual variations in production of semi-arid grasslands, tropical forest alteration, and to provide improved surface characterization for input into global models. http://ltpwww.gsfc.nasa.gov/bsb/Home.html
Contact: Darrel Williams (301) 286-8860

 Climate and Radiation Branch (GSFC)

This branch conducts basic and applied research with the goal of improving the fundamental understanding of regional and global climate on a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Emphasis is placed on the physical processes involving atmospheric radiation and dynamics, in particular, processes leading to the formation of clouds and precipitation and their effects on the water and energy cycles of the Earth. Currently, the major research thrusts of the Branch are: climate diagnostics, remote sensing applications, hydrologic processes and radiation, aerosol/climate interactions, and modeling seasonal-to-interannual variability of climate.
Contact: William Lau (301) 286-7208

Tropospheric Chemistry Research Program (LaRC)

Assess and understand human impact on the regional-to-global-scale troposphere; define chemical and physical processes governing the global geochemical cycles from empirical and analytical modeling studies, laboratory measurements, technology developments, and field measurements; and exploit unique and critical roles that space observations can provide.
Contact: James M. Hoell (757) 864-5826

Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics (GSFC)

This Branch conducts research aimed at understanding the radiation-chemistry-dynamics interaction in the troposphere-stratosphere-mesosphere system.. This Branch develops remote-sensing techniques to measure ozone and other atmospheric trace constituents important for atmospheric chemistry and climate studies, develops models for use in the analysis of observations, incorporates results of analysis to improve the predictive capabilities of models, and provides predictions of the impact of trace gas emissions on the ozone layer.
Contact: P. K. Bhartia (301) 286-4094



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