Nine new projects about earth observation

6 June 2019

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) has awarded funding to nine new research proposals about earth observation. The researchers involved will receive the grant from the User Support Programme Space Research, which the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) realises on behalf of NWO. The programme makes it possible to use the infrastructure in space for earth observation and planetary research.

The nine projects will add to our scientific knowledge about the climate and the environment and will therefore serve both a scientific and societal interest. A new aspect in this funding round was the collaboration with the Netherlands eScience Center (NLeSC). Applicants received the option of integrating a data science component in their proposal; support by eScience engineers at NLeSC has been made available to realise this. In this funding round, the selection committee assessed 41 proposals. With the nine proposals awarded funding, the total budget for this call is about 2.3 million euros.

Towards understanding the effect of cloud shadows on satellite spectrometer measurements (Shadow)
Dr P. Wang, KNMI
The TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) provides daily global maps of air pollutants, aerosols, and clouds. The cloud shadows decrease the quality of TROPOMI products. The project proposes to automatically detect the shadows and estimate the impact of the shadows on the TROPOMI products. The objective is to improve the TROPOMI products.

Transient deformation of the upper mantle from the crystal to the plate scales
Dr D. Wallis, UU
Satellite-based measurements of ground motion and gravity changes reveal flow of the upper mantle during melting of ice sheets and following large earthquakes. This project will model this flow, based on the latest laboratory rock deformation experiments, to predict ground motions below melting ice sheets and around fault zones.

Studies on wind and aerosols information from lidar surface returns (SWAILS)
Dr G.J. van Zadelhoff, KNMI
The recently launched Aeolus satellite is the first satellite ever to measure wind profiles using a laser. In this project the laser’s surface reflection signal is used to estimate the number of aerosols in the profile. These retrieved values will subsequently be used to improve aerosol-climate models.

A benchmark surface melt product for the Antarctic ice sheet
Dr P. Kuipers Munneke, UU
The Antarctic ice sheet has lost a number of large floating ice shelves in recent decades, increasing ice discharge into the ocean. As meltwater likely played an important role in shelf collapse, we will use radar and optical satellite techniques to improve estimates of current and future melt in Antarctica.

Deepening our understanding of shallow precipitation observations from space
Prof. R. Uijlenhoet, WUR
Satellites from the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission are indispensable for providing nearly global coverage of precipitation information. The quality and sources of error of precipitation products from GPM are quantified, and retrieval algorithms are improved using this information. Microwave links from cellular communication networks are used for further improvements.

Why do global models underestimate biomass burning aerosol?
Prof. A.J. Dolman, VU
Aerosol particles emitted from forest or grassland fires degrade visibility, negatively affect human health and have an impact on climate. Yet our best atmospheric models grossly underestimate the impact of these particles for unknown reasons. The project proposes to solve this riddle using a large suite of model and satellite data.

Projects with an eScience component:

Eratosthenes - chasing shadows to investigate glacier change worldwide
Prof. M.R. van den Broeke, UU
This project will detect shadows casted by mountain tops in satellite imagery of glaciers. Changes in these shadows are used to estimate changes in glacier height. This new, unconventional approach provides unprecedented information about the health of small glaciers, and improves water discharge forecasting, sea level predictions and glacier models.

Remote sensing of damage feedbacks and ice shelf instability in Antarctica
Dr. S.L.M. Lhermitte, TUD
Antarctica is the largest uncertainty in sea level rise projections, with contributions ranging from -7.5 cm to >1 m by 2100. Ice shelf weakening due to damage plays an important role, although its impact is still poorly understood. Therefore, this project will combine remote sensing and big data approaches to assess this impact.

A new perspective on global vegetation water dynamics from radar satellite data
Prof. S. Steele-Dunne, TUD
The Advanced Scatterometer on the Metop series makes it possible to monitor radar backscatter as a function of incidence angle. For the first time, this information will be used to study global vegetation water dynamics to better understand the role of vegetation in the water, energy and carbon cycles.

Source: NWO