Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

New Interdisciplinary Research Program Will Lead to Better Understanding of Global Environmental Change   Bookmark and Share

Mahta Moghaddam, associate professor and member of the Radiation Laboratory, is lead investigator at U-M for the important new multidisciplinary project: “An Inundated Wetlands Earth System Data Record: Global Monitoring of Wetland Extent and Dynamics.” Led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and selected as part of NASA's “MeaSURES” program (Making Earth Systems data records for Use in Research Environments), this five-million dollar, five-year project will deliver satellite-derived wetland maps, which can be used to study the Earth's carbon and hydrologic cycles. Such maps, the first of their kind, will enable unprecedented insight into global environmental change.

Climate change is projected to have a pronounced effect on global wetlands through alterations in hydrologic regimes, with some changes already evident. In turn, climate-driven and anthropogenic changes to tropical and boreal peatlands have the potential to create significant feedbacks through the release of large pools of soil carbon and the resultant effects of methanogenesis.

Despite the importance of these environments in the global cycling of carbon and water, as well as to current and future climate, the extent and dynamics of global wetlands remain poorly characterized and modeled. This absence of information is due primarily to the scarcity of suitable regional-to-global remote-sensing data, algorithms, and products necessary for characterizing wetland distribution and dynamics.

Prof. Moghaddam’s group has the primary responsibility for developing the time-series global boreal wetlands extent and type maps from radar satellite imagery through the use of state-of-the-art statistical classification algorithms and quantitative electromagnetic scattering and inversion models. For several years now, Prof. Moghaddam’s group has been working to produce precisely such “thematic maps,” constructed using data collected by space-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR).

“An Inundated Wetlands Earth System Data Record” is a collaborative effort between several institutions, including JPL, the University of Michigan, University of California Santa Barbara, Goddard Institute for Space Sciences, University of Montana, Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), and Canada Center for Remote Sensing.