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Satellite data enhances climate models with new vegetation growth insights
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Satellite data enhances climate models with new vegetation growth insights
by Erica Marchand
Paris, France (SPX) Apr 01, 2024

Vegetation plays a pivotal role in the Earth's climate by influencing the energy and water cycles and sequestering a significant portion of carbon emissions. Recognizing its importance, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Climate Change Initiative has unveiled a comprehensive satellite dataset aimed at enhancing climate models. This dataset focuses on Leaf Area Index (LAI) and the Fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation (FAPAR), essential for understanding vegetation growth and health globally.

The release covers observations from 2000 to 2020, integrating data from multiple sensors, including those on the SPOT satellites and ESA's Proba-V mission. Offering a 1 km grid resolution over five-day intervals, it provides climate and carbon modelers with a detailed, consistent time series complete with full uncertainty estimates and global in-situ measurement validations.

Christiaan van der Tol, a scientist from Twente University and project lead, emphasized the dataset's precision and its potential to boost confidence in climate predictions. Initially covering a north-south transect from Finland to South Africa, the project aims to expand globally, incorporating data from additional sensors for even more comprehensive analysis.

Future enhancements include the potential integration of solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence data from the upcoming ESA FLEX mission, offering insights into vegetation stress. The project, running through 2026, is part of ESA's broader effort to develop satellite climate data records to address climate change challenges effectively.

The dataset's unique unsmoothed format also allows for the detection of sudden environmental changes, providing a valuable tool for investigating events like fires or harvesting impacts. Produced by the ESA Climate Change Initiative's Vegetation Parameters project, this release underscores the critical role of satellite data in understanding and combating climate change.

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