High-Resolution Carbon Monitoring and Modeling

The NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS)

North American forests account for around 25% of the global terrestrial carbon sink and offset nearly 30% of the continental fossil fuel emissions (SOCCR, 2007). However, the extent and spatial distribution of these sinks and their future trajectory under various land use and climate scenarios is largely unknown. There is an urgent need for developing carbon monitoring capabilities to reduce these uncertainties and better understand the role of forests as carbon sinks in a changing climate. Precise and accurate estimates of carbon storage and fluxes are also critical for guiding forest management decisions, informing greenhouse gas reduction initiatives and climate treaties such as REDD+.

Recognizing this need, the U.S. Congress mandated NASA to initiate work towards a Carbon Monitoring System. NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) is a forward-looking initiative designed to make significant contributions in characterizing, quantifying, understanding, and predicting the evolution of global carbon sources and sinks through improved monitoring of carbon stocks and fluxes. The top-down or broad scale approach relies on satellite observations to quantify carbon storage and terrestrial carbon fluxes for national reporting. The bottom-up or fine scale effort focusses on mapping carbon stocks, uncertainties and sequestration potential at high spatial resolution for project level applications and national map validation. Together, the fine and broad scale approaches form a comprehensive carbon monitoring system.

Link to NASA CMS Website

Prototype High-Resolution Carbon Monitoring and Modeling Projects

The University of Maryland Global Ecology Lab, working with NASA centers, the USFS, University specialists and commercial entities has led research efforts in CMS Phase 1 and Phase 2 prototype developments that have laid the basic groundwork of our approach to high-resolution Measurement Reporting and Verification (MRV).

Our local scale carbon monitoring efforts started with a pilot research effort in 2011 for two counties in Maryland (Link). The project used existing, wall-to-wall airborne lidar coverage combined with high resolution imagery and field datasets to produce countywide maps of carbon stocks for forested and tree covered areas and their uncertainties at 30 m resolution. These data were also used to drive a prognostic ecosystem model to predict carbon fluxes and sequestration potential at an unprecedented spatial resolution (1 ha). This work successfully demonstrated the efficacy of the local-scale approach and provided the foundation for a transparent and reproducible carbon monitoring framework (Dubayah et al. 2012). In the second phase of the research, the framework was expanded in scale, from two counties (1,700 km2) to the entire state of Maryland (32,000km2). Additionally, a second study was undertaken to continue and further develop a prototype high-resolution Measurement Reporting and Verification (MRV) system across the ecologically diverse region of Sonoma County, CA (4,600 km2). Currently we are actively expanding prototype development and deployment of high-resolution carbon monitoring and modeling in the mid-Atlantic states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware (157,800 km2).

A principal aim across all these mentioned research efforts has been to link research to stakeholder needs for carbon MRV across the domains we work in. This website provides links, resources, and tools to explore and access data products and learn more about the science and engagement efforts.


Maryland: High Resolution Carbon Monitoring and Modeling: A CMS Phase 2 Study.
- NASA's CMS Profile for this project
- Project Links and Products

TriState: High-Resolution Carbon Monitoring and Modeling: Continuing Prototype Development and Deployment over the Mid Atlantic States of Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania
- NASA's CMS Profile for this project
- Project Links and Products

Sonoma: Development of a Prototype MRV System to Support Carbon Ecomarket Infrastructure in Sonoma County, CA
- NASA's CMS Profile for this project
- Project Links and Products

For more information please contact:
- Maryland and Tristate: Katelyn Dolan
- Sonoma County: Wenli Huang

Your name:

Your email address: