NASA’s U.S. Tree Map: Woody Biomass Density Never Looked So CoolBy: Josh Wolford - January 19, 2012
NASA is awesome for a variety of reasons, most prominently their role in everything space related. But NASA is also a great source of wonders of the more terrestrial persuasion, as is demonstrated in this new project about trees.
Key takeaway: If you really love trees, just stay away from the middle of the United States.
Although most of you probably already knew that little tidbit, I bet you’ve never seen a map of the U.S. based on “woody biomass” before.
This tree density map, released by NASA, is a product of a collaboration between Josef Kellndorfer and Wayne Walker of the Woods Hole Research Center, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. As a lover of woodlands, I must say, it’s nice to live near the Appalachians. Check it out below:
The visualization above was created with data from the National Biomass and Carbon Dataset. What you’re really seeing is concentrations of organic carbon, which is stored in the trees. More carbon concentration = more trees.
Here’s how NASA describes the effort:
Over six years, researchers assembled the national forest map from space-based radar, satellite sensors, computer models, and a massive amount of ground-based data. It is possibly the highest resolution and most detailed view of forest structure and carbon storage ever assembled for any country.
Forests in the U.S. were mapped down to a scale of 30 meters, or roughly 10 computer display pixels for every hectare of land (4 pixels per acre). They divided the country into 66 mapping zones and ended up mapping 265 million segments of the American land surface. Kellndorfer estimates that their mapping database includes measurements of about five million trees.
Bonus Takeaway: the tree density map really looks like a population density map of the U.S. Go figure.