Mat Disney to join NASA mission science team
Launching Earth System Science project
Dr. Mat Disney is one of two UK scientists invited to join the science team for a newly-proposed NASA mission, Land Ecosystem Assessment and Forecast (LEAF), through their involvement with the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (http://www.nceo.ac.uk/). LEAF is led out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, with Prof. Greg Asner (Stanford) and Dr. Rob Green (JPL) as chief investigators.
The LEAF proposal is a response to NASA's request for new Earth Venture missions. These are intended to be relatively low cost and quick to launch i.e. within 5 years of the concept proposal, and focused on specific Earth System Science questions. LEAF would address a key uncertainty in our ability to predict trends in the global carbon cycle by providing a baseline map of biochemical parameters for Earth’s ecosystems. It would measure the amount of photosynthetic vegetation cover globally, as well as leaf chlorophyll, lignin, nitrogen and water. These properties are key parameters underpinning global models of the carbon cycle, and are currently very poorly understood on anything other than a very local scale. They vary dramatically in space and time, but models currently tend to consider them as fixed values. LEAF would provide a globally consistent map of these properties, and show that this is key to improved model forecasting accuracy.