UNH Scientists Awarded More
Than $2.85 Million From NASA
Contact: David Sims
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
November 18, 2003
DURHAM, N.H. - Scientists at the University of New Hampshire's Institute
for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS) recently were awarded
more than $2.85 million in National Aeronautic and Space Administration
(NASA) funds under the agency's Earth Science Interdisciplinary
Science (IDS) program.
NASA selected 59 proposals from a field of 348 and awarded grants
to researchers from 23 states conducting multi-institution, interdisciplinary
scientific investigations. UNH is the lead institution for one project
and a collaborating institution for two additional projects.
The IDS research will use the vast wealth of new data from Earth-observing
satellites and new computer models to expand the understanding of
a variety of aspects of Earth system science.
Berrien Moore, director of EOS and lead scientist for an ambitious
three-year, $2.35 million IDS project titled, “Understanding
the Changing Carbon, Nitrogen, and Water Cycles in the Earth System,”
says the research will not only expand understanding of these critical
systems and their role in climate change and global warming, but
also will directly benefit UNH students.
“They will be able to participate in cutting-edge research
and be exposed to state-of-the-art technologies,” Moore says.
Understanding these complex “biogeochemical” cycles
is at the heart of the scientific inquiry into climate change. For
example, knowing the “carbon balance” of the Earth -
how much carbon is stored in forests and in the oceans (carbon “sinks”)
and how much is created by both natural and human activities (carbon
“sources”) - will help scientists unravel some of the
questions about global warming.
Adding complexity to this problem is the fact that carbon is connected
to the cycles of nitrogen and water, which also are being altered
by humans. The carbon “balance,” in other words, is
highly dynamic, with changing sources and sinks influencing each
other in an endless interplay of complex physical and chemical processes.
For Moore's project, the global-scale terrestrial and freshwater
biogeochemical cycle data will eventually be coupled with the next-generation
climate change tool, an advanced Earth System Model (ESM) being
developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's
(NOAA) Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) in Princeton,
N.J. This state-of-the-art model will incorporate a full range of
Earth-system data (oceans, atmosphere, sea ice, land, etc.) to better
understand and predict climate change and its impacts.
Seven other UNH/EOS scientists, including Charles Vörösmarty
and George Hurtt, are co-investigators for Moore's project. Vörösmarty
and Hurtt also are each co-investigators in separate IDS projects
that were funded.
Vörösmarty, director of the Water Systems Analysis Group
at EOS and Department of Earth Sciences faculty member, is part
of a team, led by the University of Colorado, investigating environmental
changes in Arctic water systems. These changes may serve as valuable
indicators of global warming and, more importantly, lead to disruptions
in the global ocean circulation system that is believed to drive
large-scale climate patterns.
Hurtt, an EOS ecologist and faculty member of the Department of
Natural Resources, is part of an IDS project at the University of
Maryland that will use aircraft-based laser technologies, or “lidar
remote sensing,” and an advanced terrestrial ecosystem model
developed at UNH to study patterns of biodiversity, and the role
of forests in the global carbon cycle.
Of the new Earth System Model he is taking part in constructing
Hurtt says, “Modeling the Earth system is complicated because
atmospheric dynamics are only one part of the puzzle. Progress in
science and technology have enabled us to attempt to understand
how the land, oceans and atmosphere interact - how the world really
works, in other words.”