terrestrial ecology website banner

Summary: Online comments submitted regarding the ABoVE Plan

posted 8.4.11

18 edited comments

Comment 1

"My area of expertise is computer science, so my comments are mostly driven from that viewpoint:

  1. comprehensive tools to make all the proposed datasets play nicely together do not currently exist. This would be a good project (due to its limited geographic area, but large number of potential datasets) to spur development of such tools. LEDAPS dropped ASTER data because not enough resources to work on both data compatibility AND the primary goal, disturbance mapping. We underestimated the effort to do data compatibility.
  2. Integrated Modeling Framework is the key to the outcome of the project because it supports policy making, but looks like it will be the most difficult part to do well because it requires synthesizing so much data, and I suspect will get the most resistance from policy makers who don't yet trust these types of tools.
  3. data archival and distribution is another area where this project could spur more development. This is an area still in its infancy (at least among the DAACs). It should probably be considered together with [1] and [2] because they each affect the other.
  4. This project lists a whole lot of stuff to coordinate and bring together. If [2] is successful, it will help bring the project together, otherwise the project will likely degenerate into lots of small research projects. This affirms the importance of [2] and implies it should be in a working state early on. "

Comment 2

"Overall, I think that the field research that is proposed in ABoVE is needed, and I endorse the proposal. My comments should be interpreted in that overall context. Another thought is that the 'field', as it were, for high latitude research is now quite crowded. The proposed focus on carbon and ecosystem issues seems appropriate, but it will need to recognize ongoing efforts by other U.S. agencies (notably NSF and DOE), and research in Canada. The U.S. connections are better articulated in the plan than are those in Canada, notwithstanding that 1/3 of the transects, and 5/13 of the focus sites, are in Canada (access may well be more difficult in northwestern Canada as well). The science questions may need to be given more thought. I\I am not sure that a field program is necessary to address the first question -- that\'s basically a data analysis project. The third question basically is a modeling issue, and while I'm fully supportive of modeling, and I think that it needs to be well integrated with the field activities. But given the budget constraints, I think that it may well make sense to link this to other funding, and I'm not sure that the third science question needs to be a primary focus of ABoVE -- essentially it is a motivation for the second science question, which really is at the heart of the proposed project. That said, science questions #1 and #3 become somewhat subsidiary, and #2 is essentially the central one. In the hydrology theme, more should be said (and more emphasis given to) observation and understanding of the role of lakes and wetlands. They are a key feature of the northern landscape, and are the source of much of the carbon that potentially can be mobilized. As noted above, coordination will be critical to making this happen. I see that interactions with DOE/BER are mentioned, and those certainly should be cultivated. The DOE Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE) is mentioned (the acronym may postdate the report), but my understanding of what is planned here is that it is much different from ABoVE, which is more of a classic land-atmosphere field campaign in the model of FIFE, BOREAS, and LBA. In contrast, I think what NGEE is planning is basically to 'cook' a small plot (small in comparison with ABoVE's domain), see what happens, and use that to improve permafrost models. It remains unclear to me (completely aside from ABoVE) how that will fit into the context of large scale studies, aside from (presumably) improving permafrost models. Finally, the proposed cost is pretty stunning. It's actually not a huge number in comparison with the cost of BOREAS (or LBA for that matter) if adjusted to current dollars, but I don't see where the $ would realistically come from in the current budget climate, and I do wonder whether the massive invasion of researchers a la BOREAS is really the best strategy. As one point of argument -- the NAME (North American Monsoon Experiment) field campaign cost NOAA around $4m. To be sure, there wasn't much of a land focus, it was only one summer season, and so on. But compared with over $100m, it was a tiny amount, and quite a lot was learned. My suggestion is that what should happen is to go back and tune up the science questions (see above), then ask what is really required to address those questions (often, science questions are written as part of the high level prose justifying a project, and promptly forgotten, when in reality, they should be driving the experimental design). Viewed that way, I have to wonder whether three transects are really needed (especially the one in Canada, which is going to be very expensive). How much could you do with one transect, adjacent to the Fairbanks-Prudhoe Bay Highway? Finally, yes, I quite certainly would be interested in participating, and almost certainly would propose if there were an appropriate proposal target."

Comment 3

"This region is showing the greatest impacts of the warming pulse we are in now, since the mid the 1970s. Definitely a high priority research area to which NASA and other agencies can make a contribution in driving the research. I am surprised that Nemani's paper with Drs. Keeling, Tucker, Asrar and Nemani, published in Nature in 1997, has not been mentioned. This paper is now cited over 1000 times and HAS BEEN THE DRIVING FORCING BEHIND ALL THE RESEARCH AND ATTENTION TO THIS REGION. Plus, Nemani has published several high profile articles on this theme over the past decade, none of which seem to register to the writer of this report, but which are cited in nearly every journal article published since 1997."

Comment 4

"The ABoVE report describes an ambitious plan to address key uncertainties associated with the ways in which Arctic and Boreal ecosystems will respond and feedback to ongoing climate change. While they are broad, owing to the complex nature of the problem, the research questions are relevant and of high priority. The seven science themes each address a critical component of the Arctic system, in the context of the research questions. The latest research confirms that the processes covered by these science themes are undergoing rapid changes in Arctic ecosystems, with important climate feedback consequences in most cases. However, integrative studies of these processes and their climate responses and feedbacks are lacking, due in large part to the complexity and the relative paucity of comprehensive field studies in these ecosystems. In this respect the ABoVE project would be very timely. Moreover, the proposed organization and implementation of the project is well suited to successfully addressing these knowledge gaps. Having working groups centered around both the science themes, and the research methodologies (e.g. modeling, remote sensing and field studies) should maximize communication between these otherwise disconnected communities and result in significant advances in our understanding of Arctic and boreal ecosystems at multiple scales. Overall I think that ABoVE would be very worthwhile and I would be eager to propose to participate. "

Comment 5

"ABOVE will fill an important gap in northern climate-change research. Previous and current research is often site-specific without a strong empirical basis for temporal and spatial extrapolation. LTER and NEON research, for example, is concentrated in a small number of places and cannot provide answers to questions such as climate feedbacks that require wall-to-wall coverage. A NASA-based effort that makes good use of satellite imagery and rigorous ground truthing will provide a nice link between past process-based research and the regional- to continental-scale science that is needed to assess regional resilience and vulnerability. The questions do a good job of addressing this linkage and the study design seems appropriate."

Comment 6

"I am very supportive of the ABoVE report. I attended the workshop related to the ABoVE report in August 2009, and read through report drafts. I would like to see NASA issue a request for proposals based on the report, and would likely work on a proposal for this call."

Comment 7

"Key Words: Inverse Modeling, Regional Scale, CO2 flux, CO2 Concentration, Airborne Monitoring, Tower-Based Monitoring, Validation, Platforms, Payloads. Boundary Layer Monitoring. ; Flux towers are being envisioned as a fundamental observing component of ABoVE. If there is a need for observations of CO2 concentrations from the same towers, as could be used to perform inverse modeling at the regional scale (e.g., Gockede et. al. JGR, 115, D15113, 2010), then AOS may be able to contribute to this program. I suggest innovative technologies that can provide 24/7 observations of CO2 concentration from the towers and episodic vertical profiles of atmospheric CO2 that may help to evaluate the sensitivities of inverse modeling to variations in vertical structure of the boundary layer. Applicable Platforms/Payloads 1. 24/7 Monitoring at Single Point. CO2 Sensor network consisting of autonomous payloads attached at height to discrete towers without any connections to ground and which delivers its data streams of CO2 concentration to a central hub or communication center. Maintenance cycle is 1 year 2. Discrete Vertical Soundings #1. Aircraft (manned, unmanned) with high precision, validated payload able to provide vertical profiles of CO2 concentration of the atmosphere above the towers from near ground level (~ 500í AGL) into the stratosphere (65,000í MSL). There is an option to deploy flask samplers able to provide further validation and concentrations of additional species (CO, CH4, CO2 isotopes). One or more custom analysis stations sited local to the observational theater could be built to service the flask sampling technology 3. Discrete Vertical Soundings #2. Expendable CO2 Radiosonde deployed as dropsonde from aircraft able to provide vertical profiles of CO2 concentration above the towers from ground level to height of the carrier aircraft. Communication of data could to be made by the towers transmitter. Status of the Platforms/Payloads 1. Manned aircraft with high precision AOS CO2 payload and AOS flask samplers. Operational and validated by hundreds of missions against the flask sampling technology of NOAA/GMD 2. NASA unmanned aircraft (Global Hawk) is operational to 65,000í MSL. Development of its AOS CO2 payload is well underway with first airborne deployment planned in 1 year 3. AOS CO2 Radiosonde. Under development with first deployment planned in 1 year 4. AOS Autonomous CO2 Tower payload. Under development with projected first deployment in 1 year. Recommendation 1. Any soundings of the boundary layer, whether by tower, aircraft or radiosonde, should be validated by multiple technologies to ensure that they are objective. Measurements from the tower can be validated by vertical profiles made from manned aircraft or CO2 Radiosonde. If practical, there should be validation of the tower payload on the ground during periods of maintenance which I assume could be scheduled once per year. Recommendation 2. Deployment of redundant technologies will compensate for unavoidable system failures and provide further validation. This is especially important for sensor networks deployed to remote locations."

Comment 8

"1) the scientific value, importance and priority of the research questions raised in the ABoVE document are important questions with wide ranging implications. 2) the appropriateness of the scientific implementation approach and methods appear quite vague at this point as I did not see any detailed scientific implementation approach. This needs to be addressed very seriously to ensure the methodology compliments the questions being asked and that it is possible to expect meaningful answers to those questions."

Comment 9

"I think this type of long-term funding is essential to detecting current changes and predicting future changes in the arctic and boreal biomes. The remote nature and spatial heterogeneity of these biomes demands a spatial approach that lends itself well to remote sensing. The authors seem to have a good plan for ground-truthing the imagery and they have a great point about how these long-term projects are used effectively to leverage additional resources, as in the Bonanza Creek LTER. Good Luck! "

Comment 10

"1) scientific value, importance and priority of the research questions the document did a very good job in justifying the value, importance, and priority of the research questions. However, there are two weaknesses: ---a)the price tag ($133M/10 year) seems too high for this project, particularly under the current budget situation. The AVoBE team should be asked to prepare three scenarios: $133M/10yr budget, $80M/10year budget, and $50M/10year budget. The only purpose of this exercise is to force the ABoVE team to prioritize tasks. ---b)The final deliverables should also be provided along with the mechanisms to ensure the delivery. 2) appropriateness of the scientific implementation approach and methods The implementation approach and methods are generally reasonable. However, there are a few weaknesses: ---a) implementation approach is based on an unrealistic (too high) budget ---b) separately discussing and setting up permafrost, ecosystem dynamics,land-atmosphere interaction, disturbance, surface hydrology, soil; carbon, and human dimension working groups would drive disciplinary studies (rather than interdisciplinary synergies -- which is the goal of this project). In any case, all these processes are closely coupled in nature and in models ; ---c) a more efficient structure might be:; ---modeling teams; ---airborne and satellite remote sensing teams and; ---in situ measurements teams; ; No additional sub-groups or working groups ; each team should include interdisciplinary members for synergy "

Comment 11

"As a current PhD candidate, my comments come from the perspective of a young researcher at the start of a research career. ABoVE would offer numerous opportunities for new investigators to begin and cultivate research careers with many seasoned investigators familiar with conducting NASA research. Also, my current research area is within the boreal forests of interior Alaska, so these comments come from my knowledge gained while traversing Alaska's boreal forests. If ABoVE becomes NASA's next field campaign, I know that I (and many of my colleagues at a similar point in their careers) will be applying to participate High northern latitude (HNL) regions are important carbon reservoirs throughout the northern hemisphere, and changes in climate and human behavior have the potential to significantly alter these ecosystems, in ways which still need to be further investigated. The research questions posed in ABoVE fully address many of the issues surrounding the intricate ecosystems of HNL regions. The study questions put this research in a larger context, by trying to understand HNL regions across many temporal and geographical scales, from the past to the future and the local to the global. ; The research strategy of ABoVE also provides a reasonable way to assess changes in these ecosystems. In the proposed role for NASA in this research effort, the research community, resource managers and the general public have an exciting opportunity to work together and better understand HNL regions. Also, the ABoVE research plan relies heavily on remote sensing (RS) data and I have seen the usefulness of these data in my own research. The large geographic area and remote locations of arctic and boreal ecosystems provide an appealing opportunity to use and further understanding of remotely sensed data, both through airborne and satellite sensors. "

Comment 12

"I was involved in the community workshop for this scoping study and during that time became convinced that there is a great deal to be gained from this type of study. The Arctic plays a major role in global climate and has been studied for quite some time. However a substantial portion of these studies have been modeling studies with limited field data collection. With the lengthening data records of satellite remote sensing this seems like a good time to complement NASA\'s satellite data holdings with some ground measurements in an extensive field campaign. If the Above project were to be solicited I would definitely submit a proposal to participate."

Comment 13

"The ABoVE Finale Report is well done and very interesting. A few minor thoughts. I believe that that the Northern Latitudes are and will be a prime source of carbon due to climate change and it is vital to better understand these terrestrial ecosystems. The ABoVE report made that case very well. I do wish there was a little more emphasis on some of the accomplishments and issues that LBA found or addressed. Such as, how can some of the field sites, studies, and partnerships be sustainable. This is one thing that LBA has been very good in its legacy. I like how the programs/field campaigns are organized, in a way similar to LBA but expanded to address the ecology of the region of study. I do wish there was a little more background and scientific review in the report and more emphasis on remote sensing, but this is minor. I will definitely submit proposals to this program."

Comment 14

"Present-day and especially future changes to the land surface in Arctic and Boreal regions contribute to positive and negative feedbacks to local, regional and global climates. Some of these feedbacks are included in present-day climate models but most of them are not. That is why it is so important to address the question how climate change impacts ecosystems in the High Northern Latitude region, and how these changes produce feedbacks to climate and are influencing ecosystem services. Studies conducted for ABoVE will focus on identifying thresholds and tipping points that can produce state changes in Arctic and Boreal ecosystems in response to variations in climate, providing the basis for improving the reliability of the process models required to predict how these ecosystems are likely to change in the future based on different climate change scenarios. The results from these studies will also provide the basis for further development and refinement of models that can predict factors contributing to changes in the radiative forcing of the atmosphere. This research will provide information products on the impacts of climate change in the HNL region to a variety of users including local residents and local and regional governments. Investigations will be carried out on the processes and factors controlling landscape and regional variations in the patterns of surface and subsurface processes over multiple time scales through the integrated studies of the responses of the ecosystems to changes in climate, disturbance regimes, surface hydrology and permafrost, including the use of information products derived from analyses of remotely sensed data either as model inputs or a means to validate the models. The Integrated Modeling Framework component of ABoVE will provide the mechanisms for developing an effective integration and synthesis of collected data. The experimental design for ABoVE will allow using the results of ongoing and planned research in Arctic and Boreal regions, with many studies involving long-term monitoring through surface observations. I would be very interested to be involved in this type of research and will submit a proposal if there will be a call."

Comment 15

Thank you for the opportunity to comment! The Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON, Wunch et al., 2011) measures column-integrated mixing ratios of atmospheric CO2, CH4 and CO from ground-based remote sensing observatories. Measurements from the TCCON will tie the satellite measurements to World Meteorological Organization standards, so they are more directly comparable with the in situ measurements from aircraft and surface stations (Wunch et al., 2010). TCCON currently has one operational site in the Canadian Arctic (Eureka, P.I. Kimberly Strong, Batchelor et al., 2009) an additional observatory at Poker Flat, Alaska should become operational in the near future, and a potential observatory at Bratt\'s Lake, Saskatchewan is under consideration. These ground-based measurements will also supplement satellite data, and have been used to constrain emissions of CO and CH4 (Keppel-Aleks et al., 2009, Wunch et al., 2009). Observations of column-integrated CO2 made in the northern hemisphere midlatitudes provide useful information about hemispheric-scale net ecosystem exchange in fact, much of the seasonal variation in column CO2 observations from midlatitude TCCON sites at Park Falls, Wisconsin (46N, 270W), and Lamont, Oklahoma (37N, 280W) is tied to the seasonality of Boreal fluxes (Keppel-Aleks et al., 2011). Data from these observatories will thus provide constraints on Boreal and Arctic carbon fluxes despite falling outside the nominal study area. Further, although TCCON sites are stationary, advection of airmasses from regions affected by wildfires will allow calculation of modified combustion efficiency and emission ratios for wildfires. References: Batchelor et al. A new Bruker IFS 125HR FTIR spectrometer for the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory at Eureka, Canada - measurements and comparison with the existing Bomem DA8 spectrometer. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technology, 26 (7), 2009. Keppel-Aleks et al. Coincident retrievals of CO and CO2 from high resolution solar absorption spectrometry. AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts, December 2009. Keppel-Aleks et al. Sources of variations in total column carbon dioxide, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 2011. Wunch et al. Emissions of greenhouse gases from a North American megacity, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, 2009. Wunch et al. Calibration of the Total Carbon Column Observing Network using aircraft profile data, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 3, 1351-1362, 2010. Wunch et al. The Total Carbon Column Observing Network, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A, vol. 369 no. 1943, 2011."

Comment 16

"Does this study fully recognize the importance and impact of CH4 over the ABoVE study region. A number of studies are pointing to the potentially large unknowns beyond human control including climate feedbacks associated with rising temperatures in the atmosphere and waters of northern latitudes which could destabilize vast terrestrial (e.g. permafrost) and marine (e.g. permafrost and methane hydrate) reservoirs. The implementation plan for measuring CH4 emissions is relying upon extending the NASA Venture Mission CARVE. There are significant deficiencies in the CARVE plan for measuring CH4 that can be over come by using a new active laser remote sensing technique. NASA ESTO technology programs can provide this capability with modest investments within the existing programs. This active laser remote sensing capability using pulsed lasers will be ideal for investigating high latitude CH4 releases over polar ice sheets, permafrost regions, wetlands, and over open ocean during night and day. Further, this technique will be relatively insensitive to aerosol and cloud interferences problem associated with passive remote sensing techniques. "

Comment 17

"The scientific value, importance and priority of the research questions The science questions are worthwhile and cover key aspects of dynamics, vulnerability, and impacts (present and future). The inclusion of tundra, permafrost and human impacts sets this apart from the earlier Boreas project. Permafrost in itself should bring together at least three HQ science disciplines: Carbon cycle and Ecosystems, Hydrology and Polar Sciences. The appropriateness of the scientific implementation approach and methods Good overall plan for sampling key ecosystems and permafrost regimes. This study should be ready made for a strong partnership with NSF. LTERs were mentioned, and the brief mention of the NSF Polar Programs must be developed to capitalize on on-going work on permafrost and Arctic hydrology. Also NSF NEON Domains 18 and 19 may overlap the study areas. ( This was hinted at in Table C1) The strong aircraft (A/C) component outlined is essential but is not clear what A/C resources were available and if there are limits imposed by lack of A/C support facilities. AIRSAR is defunct but other airborne SARs should be available through EV1 projects, but also through an emerging IIP The extensive area of unique Larch forest in northern Eurasia is missed by this study and it is recommended that studies designed to fill in this gap be considered for future ROSES calls Use of existing DAAC resources should be considered when design the ABoVe data system archive. For example ASF for satellite products, ORNL for field and A/C data; "
Comment 18
"I am supportive of the proposed ABOVE field campaign. As an arctic researcher, I think this will be an excellent opportunity to tackle some of the most pressing research questions in arctic terrestrial ecosystems. I would also be interested in participating in the field campaign (e.g., submitting a proposal, participating in the steering committee, etc.). Thanks!"