Four Things ECOSTRESS Can See From Space

Our new instrument in space, the Ecosystem
Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS), is
designed to study how plants respond to heat and water stress by measuring the
temperature of Earth’s vegetation, but that’s not all it will do. Adding
ECOSTRESS to the Space Station will also add to our understanding of volcanoes,
fires, urban heat and coastal and inland waters.

1. Fires

ECOSTRESS’s radiometer can detect all kinds of fires, but it
may be most useful in recording small fires – new wildfires that are just
beginning to grow. These have proven hard to study from satellite observations.
ECOSTRESS has a pixel size of only 130 by 230 feet (40 by 70 meters), offering
a much sharper view. “We’ll be able to see a bonfire on a beach,” ECOSTRESS
scientist Simon Hook says.

Credit: USGS

2. Volcanoes

ECOSTRESS’s thermal infrared imager will be able to spot new
fissures and hotspots that can signal impending volcanic eruptions.

The Chiliques volcano in Chile was thought to be
dormant until thermal images revealed new activity. Credit: NASA/METI/AIST/Japan
Space Systems and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

3. Urban Heat

The heat generated by a large city can compound the health
hazards of heat waves, particularly for the oldest and youngest city dwellers.
Which neighborhoods suffer from heat the most? With the very detailed images
from ECOSTRESS, we’ll be able to see which mitigation efforts are keeping
neighborhoods cool.

Urban areas can be up to 8 degrees warmer than
surrounding suburban or natural landscapes, as seen here in a true-color image
of the Atlanta area, top, and temperature data, bottom.

Credit: NASA

4. Coastal and Inland

Along coastlines and in large lakes, wind can push surface
water aside allowing water from the depths to rise to the surface, bringing
nutrients. These upwellings of cold water are important sources of nutrition
for the coastal and lake plants and animals. ECOSTRESS can detect these smaller
upwellings, providing valuable information for researchers.

Upwelling can be seen in satellite data. Here
temperature data (top) and chlorophyll concentrations (bottom) are shown around
the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico
. Credit: MODIS Ocean
Color Team
/Norman Kuring

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