June 19, 2013
The European Space Agency is set to develop a new Earth-observing satellite that will map and monitor global forests.
The satellite, called BIOMASS, will provide an enhanced level of detail and understanding to the role forests play in the global carbon cycle and potential climate change.
Hank Shugart, W.W. Corcoran Professor of Environmental Sciences in the University of Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences, served on the scientific advisory committee that ultimately convinced the space agency to fund and develop the nearly $525 million satellite.
“BIOMASS will be a hugely important instrument for global environmental science research in the coming years,” said Shugart “Its observations will be the basis of significant international environmental policy in the areas of carbon cycling and global warming,”
The satellite also will allow long-term monitoring of forest usage, such as deforestation or reforestation. The information would prove useful to international efforts to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation in rapidly developing countries.
BIOMASS will be the seventh addition to the European Space Agency’s fleet of Earth Explorer satellites, three of which are in orbit, with the rest under development.
The satellite is planned for a 2020 launch.