ICESat-2 Mission Applications: Improving Science Application Tools and Research

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014: 2:00 PM
Room C108 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Vanessa M. Escobar, NASA/GSFC/Sigma Space Corporation, Greenbelt, MD; and S. Delgado, M. E. Brown, T. Markus, and T. A. Newmann

The Decadal Survey for Earth Science, released by the National Research Council in 2007, outlined research prerogatives of national importance for the next decade and identified the development of applications of satellite data as a priority for all future missions. NASA's Applied Sciences division responded to this by identifying personnel who will lead applications activities for all Tier 1 Decadal Survey missions, such as the Ice Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission. NASA depends on the science community to identify and prioritize scientific questions and the observations required to answer them. The ICESat-2 Applications program has been developed to engage with the project science, stakeholders and potential users during the pre-launch development process of ICESat-2 to ensure that the data product suite and delivery mechanisms achieve maximum value and enable improvements in decision making processes.

ICESat-2 is the second generation of the laser altimeter ICESat mission, launched by NASA in January 2003. The new space-based light detection and ranging (LIDAR) mission is being developed for a target launch in 2016, and will continue important observations of ice-sheet elevation change, sea-ice freeboard, and vegetation canopy height begun by ICESat. Together, the ICESat and ICESat-2 datasets will allow for continent-wide estimates in the change in volume of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets over a 15-year period and provide analysis of sea-ice thickness.

This poster provides relevant information about the ICESat-2 user community and data specifications for interested participants. Following launch in 2016, ICESat-2 will deliver a number of science data products critical for: 1) quantifying polar ice-sheet contributions to current and recent sea-level change and the linkages to climate conditions; 2) quantifying regional signatures of ice-sheet changes to assess mechanisms driving those changes and improve predictive ice sheet models; 3) estimating sea-ice thickness to examine ice/ocean/atmosphere exchanges of energy, mass and moisture; 4) measuring vegetation canopy height as a basis for estimating large-scale biomass and biomass change; and 5) enhancing the utility of other Earth observation systems through supportive measurements. The Applications program will work with operational decision making communities to identify ways ICESat-2 data can provide support to disaster risk reduction, operational analyses and forecasts, hazards response, among other applications. Initial engagement with the National Ice Center (NIC), for example, identified a potential for ICESat-2 products to benefit calculating the melt of ice sheets in order to determine navigation hazards such as “downward forming ice poles” that can pierce the top hull of a submarine. In the area of sea and land ice applications relevant to NIC, it is expected that ICESat-2 measurements will also benefit maritime navigation, calibration and validation of navigational hazard for submarines; help submarines locate leads or thin ice for emergency surfacing and communication; and develop sea ice map developments.

In order to generate applications-relevant data products at launch, the Applications team will engage the NIC and other relevant operational communities in the pre-launch development stage of the ICESat-2 mission and broaden the community base through interactive workshops focus sessions, tutorials, and the establishment of an Applications Working Group. As part of our engagement strategy, an Early Adopter program will be established to provide a fundamental understanding of how ICESat-2 data products can be scaled and integrated into organizations' policy, business and management activities to improve decision making efforts. The Early Adopter program will 1) link specific applications to the mission's proposed data products, 2) provide relevant communities of end-users with access to simulated data for their application, and 3) provide the product developers with a test bed for their developmental outputs. Research conducted through the Early Adopter program will demonstrate how ICESat-2 products connect to thematic user application objectives, and will allow for feedback to clarify and redefine paths for how science can become actively relevant.

The success of the Applications program will ultimately be measured by how much increased visibility and uptake of ICESat-2 data in decision making application has occurred. Effective pre-launch engagement with users is an important component to mission success. Workshop reports, peer-reviewed and general audience publications, as well as a final report summarizing the Early Adopter program are some of the anticipated deliverables to communicate program performance. Overall, the program aims to increase the number of thematic applications for the ICESat-2 mission by actively engaging the user community in parallel with the mission development. The goal is to have relevant products with increased usability and functionality in decision-making activities and in society as a whole.