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iLEAPS-ESA Science Consultation Workshop: Towards an iLEAPS Biosphere-Atmosphere Index

13 June 2013

ESA is pleased to announce that the iLEAPS-ESA Science Consultation Workshop: Towards an iLEAPS Biosphere-Atmosphere Index, will take place 13 June 2013 at Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science e.V, Munich, Germany


The atmosphere and the terrestrial biosphere are subsystems of the Earth system, which influence each other by exchanging energy, matter and information. These exchanges or interactions, organized on different temporal and spatial scales, require a better understanding and characterization that may ensure both an accurate description of the past processes and fluxes as well as a reliable short-term and long-term prediction of the climate and Earth system behavior and their impacts on human activities.

In the last decades, a vast amount of data has been collected via in-situ instrumental networks and by Earth Observation (EO) systems characterizing several of the key variables governing land-atmosphere processes and interactions (e.g., aerosols, active fires, burned area, smoke plume height, LAI, fPAR, greenhouse gases concentrations, soil moisture, land cover, inundation, biomass, etc..). So far, however, these data sets have not been sufficiently exploited in an integrated and synergetic manner.

On the one hand, traditional analysis strategies were often disciplinary and did not benefit from newly developed non-linear statistical techniques, which for example have been successfully applied in bioinformatics, which may allow the efficient exploitation of the synergic information provided by the different datasets in time and in space.

On the other hand, the synergic use of different EO data sets (e.g., with different levels of maturity, accuracy and consistency) requires a significant effort of harmonization and error characterization that render this important task a significant scientific and technical challenge (Mahecha et al, 2012).

Discussions at the iLPEAS SSC inspired a first exploratory workshop in Frascati 2009 organized by iLEAPS, the ESA and the Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry. The major outcome of the workshop was the insight that a new generation of indices is required in order to monitor the major dimensions of spatial and in particular temporal change from the highly multivariate and diverse observational data. Ideally, an index of this kind would provide an “early warning” system for changes in Biosphere-Atmosphere interactions and likewise find associations to human activity (for instance the human appropriation of natural resources).

In parallel, the European Space Agency (ESA) and iLEAPS started in 2009 the ALANIS (Atmosphere LANd Interaction Study) initiative, which aimed at advancing in the use of EO datasets to address some of the main open questions in land-atmosphere interactions science. ALANIS started three parallel studies addressing: methane emissions from wetlands, wildfire emissions into the atmosphere and anthropogenic and natural aerosols. These activities resulted in a number of new EO products (e.g., smoke plume injection height, aerosols proxies) and data assimilation experiments demonstrating the potential and benefits of the synergic use of EO into land-atmosphere couple models. At the final ALANIS workshop, Postdam (D) 14th February 2012, a recommendation was made advocating for further research activities that may advance and facilitate the synergic use of the different EO data sets for land-atmosphere science studies through the development of dedicated benchmark datasets for model verification and validation and advanced data driven analysis tools.


As a follow on of these initiatives, the overarching goal of this workshop is to bring together the land-atmosphere interactions and the Earth Observation scientific communities to discuss and consolidate the scientific requirements to develop an iLEAPS Biosphere-Atmosphere Index.

iLEAPS Biosphere-Atmosphere Index will be based on an integrated dataset merging different EO-based products in a common spatial and temporal grid characterizing the key variables governing land-atmosphere interactions, together with a suitable error characterization, ancillary data and supported by a series of advanced data analysis tools.

The Index should be a robust indicator for a generic and unbiased detection of extreme or unprecedented situations in land-atmosphere interactions and should provide an independent tool for a neutral and retroperspective classifications of anomalies in EO archives. Ideally, the index should be multi-dimensional and disentangle the biosphere/atmosphere/human dimensions and their interactions.

This iLEAPS Biosphere-Atmosphere Index should be computable also for simulation results from Earth system models and thus allow to benchmark and evaluate land-surface and land-atmosphere coupled models in the key dimensions.

In this context the workshop aims at:

Conclusions and recommendations from this meeting will be used to define the scope and develop guidelines for a potential project competitively funded by ESA under the Support To Science Element to be initiated in 2014.

EO experts, land-atmosphere scientists, modellers and the iLEAPS community is invite to participate to this meeting and provide their feedback and visions that may support the consolidation of the iLEAPS Biosphere-Atmosphere Index.


For registration, please, contact
Dr. Markus Reichstein


Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science e.V.
Hofgartenstrasse 8
80539 Munich

The meeting room will be limited to a maximum of 20 participants (registration will be done in order of request).


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