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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Measuring Land Surface Carbon Uptake in Real Time Using Geostationary Satellites

Vegetation carbon uptake via photosynthesis is the ultimate source of our food and regulates global warming by removing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis is sensitive to extreme events and climate change, and we need to understand it to effectively manage ecosystems in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Satellites have long measured photosynthesis on weekly to annual time scales, but ecosystem disturbances can happen much faster, and better choices can be made with information that arrives instantaneously rather than retrospectively. The University of Wisconsin helped invent geostationary (“weather”) satellites to benefit society. Weather satellites can now actually measure photosynthesis in real-time, but nobody has done this to date. This project will develop approaches to measure photosynthesis and ecosystem water flux from weather satellites. It will compare these measurements against ecosystem photosynthesis measurements, and use this information in writing a competitive federal grant proposal to build a center of excellence in real-time carbon cycle monitoring at UW–Madison.


Paul Stoy, associate professor of biological systems engineering



Ankur Desai, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences

Jason Otkin, associate scientist at the Space Sciences and Engineering Center

Zhou Zhang, assistant professor of biological systems engineering