Joint Global Carbon Cycle Center

The NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA-GSFC), a leading national lab, and the University of Maryland (UMD), a top-tier research university, have collaborated for more than thirty years on scientific studies of the Earth. This work has been highly successful and has won international recognition. Building on this history, the two institutions are now partnering to develop a world-leading center for the studies of the global carbon cycle. Carbon is the basis of life, has large and changing reservoirs, and carbon compounds exert a strong influence on climate. The Joint Global Carbon Cycle Center will combine the strengths of NASA-GSFC and UMD to advance science and education on studies of carbon beyond what either institution could achieve alone. Initial research foci will include remote sensing estimation of terrestrial carbon stocks and fluxes, mapping land-cover and land-use changes, field campaigns for calibration & validation, and integrated computer modeling of carbon cycle dynamics and management options. The center will also strive to provide unique joint education opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate students.



Remote sensing of terrestrial carbon stocks and fluxes. 


Today’s estimates of carbon stocks present large uncertainties. Information on the three-dimensional structure of vegetation is crucial to produce accurate estimates of carbon stocks and to understand the role of natural and human-made disturbances in carbon flows. The Joint Global Carbon Cycle Center research focuses on the development of algorithms to estimate vegetation structure at local, regional, and global scales to feed ecosystem models. The Joint Global Carbon Cycle Center research also works in the development of new satellite missions aiming to monitor vegetation structure from space.                  



Land Use Data and Information.


The last 20 years have witnessed a remarkable evolution in earth observation capabilities. Satellite and information technologies are advancing, providing new data and information on the land surface, enabling improved mapping and monitoring of the land surface and its characteristics at a range of scales. New data sets provide a record of land surface changes and input to state-of-the-art coupled and integrated global models.  Coarse resolution data from NASA MODIS and VIIRS instrument provide daily monitoring of the land surface. New data from Landsat 8 and the Landsat archive (1972 – present) allows the analysis of long-term time series at higher spatial resolution. Constellations of medium resolution sensors will further increase the frequency of observation and the amount of remote sensing data at 20-30 m resolution, enhancing our capabilities to develop higher resolution global products and continuously monitor environmental processes. The Joint Global Carbon Cycle Center works in the development of algorithms and data products from satellite observations and methodologies to integrate and extract information. This research will lead to improve the characterization of poorly understood components of environmental processes for science and applications of societal benefit.                                        


Field campaigns for calibration & validation.


The Joint Global Carbon Cycle Center is active in large-scale, long-term field campaigns. As an example Joint Global Carbon Cycle Center researchers have prominent roles in the NASA-sponsored Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE). Arctic and boreal ecosystems present some of the major uncertainties in the carbon cycle. ABoVE aims to improve our understanding about the carbon cycle in higher latitudes, focusing on the impacts of climate change on high northern latitude ecosystems, including tundra, boreal forests, and peatlands.



Integrated modeling of carbon cycle dynamics.


Planning for the next century requires accurate models of the Earth system that include human activity and terrestrial ecosystem dynamics. The Joint Global Carbon Cycle Center research in integrated modeling aims to develop a new generation of global models embedding human behavior, economic, energy, and terrestrial ecosystem dynamics. These models will be adapted to fully exploit existing and new observation systems to increase robustness and empirical basis of future scenarios, enhancing our capabilities to evaluate and diagnose the interplay between human activities and the environment.                                                                                                     






Principal Investigator: George Hurtt;         Project Scientist: Fernando Sedano;         Contact: