NASA’s new Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) allows scientists to gauge our planet's metabolism on an almost daily basis. GPP, gross primary production, is the technical term for plant photosynthesis. This composite image over the continental United States, acquired during the period March 26–April 10, 2000, shows regions where plants were more or less productive—i.e., where they “inhaled” carbon dioxide and then used the carbon from photosynthesis to build new plant structures.
This false-color image provides a map of how much carbon was absorbed out of the atmosphere and fixed within land vegetation. Areas colored blue show where plants used as much as 60 grams of carbon per square meter. Areas colored green and yellow indicate a range of anywhere from 40 to 20 grams of carbon absorbed per square meter. Red pixels show an absorption of less than 10 grams of carbon per square meter and white pixels (often areas covered by snow or masked as urban) show little or no absorption.
This is one of a number of new measurements that MODIS provides to help scientists understand how the Earth’s landscapes are changing over time. Scientists’ goal is use of these GPP measurements to refine computer models to simulate how the land biosphere influences the natural cycles of water, carbon, and energy throughout the Earth system. The GPP will be an integral part of global carbon cycle source and sink analysis, an important aspect of Kyoto Protocol assessments.
This image is the first of its kind from the MODIS instrument, which launched in December 1999 aboard the Terra spacecraft. MODIS began acquiring scientific data on February 24, 2000, when it first opened its aperture door. The MODIS instrument and Terra spacecraft are both managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD.
Image courtesy Steven Running, MODIS Land Group Member, University of Montana