European Space Mission Could Focus on Biomass

By Erin Voegele | January 25, 2013

Depending on the outcome of an upcoming vote, researchers might gain access to powerful new biomass and carbon data. In March, European scientists are expected to select the European Space Agency’s next Earth Explorer mission.  There are three choices to select from: Biomass, CoReH2O, and PREMIER.

While the CoReH2O mission could study snow, glaciers and surface water, and the PREMIER mission would stud link trace gases, radiation and chemistry in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, the Biomass mission would aim to improve estimates of carbon stocks and fluxes.

Essentially, the Biomass mission would take measurements of forest biomass and how that biomass changes over time. The ESA says that the data gathered would help reduce uncertainty in the distribution and dynamics of forests, thereby helping to improve both present assessments and future projections of the carbon cycle.

According to documents published by the ESA, the project would include takeing biomass readings across the entire globe every six months. The mission would last five years.

In a technical paper outlining the proposed mission, the ESA made the connection between political policy, climate change and this type of research.

Assuming the scientific community selects the Biomass mission, I hope the result will be the collection strong data on the carbon lifecycle. Indirect land use change has been a point of contention between the bioenergy sector and environmental community for years. Hopefully this type of research could help resolve that debate by providing better data that relies less on speculation and more on real world measurements.