Earth

"Mapping the Amazon: Science, Supercomputers and Synthetic Aperture Radar" will be the subject of a free public lecture on Thursday, March 19 at 7 p.m. in JPL's von Karman Auditorium, 4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena. Seating is limited and will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

The lecture will be presented by Dr. Anthony Freeman, Radar Instrument Manager for NASA's planned LightSAR mission. Freeman was manager of the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C (SIR-C) Outreach Program from 1994-96, and was recently involved with the discovery of evidence of a prehistoric civilization and remnants of ancient temples in Angkor, Cambodia, using the JPL-developed Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (AIRSAR).

Scientists studying global climate change search for evidence of carbon, either released as carbon monoxide and methane, or stored in plant biomass in rainforest regions sometimes known as the "lungs" of the Earth. Using sophisticated supercomputers and synthetic aperture radar (called "SAR"), scientists are now developing large-scale models of the carbon exchange occurring over the world's rain forests. SAR is an imaging technique that uses radar to "see" objects under thick cloud and surface cover and at night. It was used in the early 1990s on the Magellan mission, penetrating Venus' thick clouds providing detailed images of that planet's surface, and onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1994, allowing archaeologists to locate ancient Arabia's "lost" city of Ubar by revealing old caravan routes buried beneath the region's thick layer of sand.

A SAR instrument onboard the Japanese JERS-1 satellite is now involved in the Global Rain Forest Mapping project, begun in 1995, to systematically map the world's tropical rain forests to better form models of global carbon exchange. The first result from that project is a new map of the entire Amazon basin, available on the internet at http://southport.jpl.nasa.gov/amazon.

Working in conjuction with the SAR investigations are a host of sophisticated supercomputers, capable of multi-dimensional mathematical modeling which allows the extensive computations a product such as the newly-created Amazon map requires. The new map will be used by scientists to estimate the area subject to deforestation and the extent of the Amazon's annual flooding. These estimations are contributing to models of carbon exhange that are being developed for the Amazon as part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth program.

This lecture is part of the von Karman Lecture Series sponsored monthly by the JPL Media Relations Office. A web site on the lecture series is located at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/lecture. For directions and other information, call the Media Relations Office at (818) 354-5011.

JPL is a division of the California Instititute of Technology.


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