Extending The Results Of NASA Research For Homeland Security
Stephen Ambrose, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Dr. Bruce Davis, Department of Homeland Security
Last month's issue of EOM contained an overview article by Birk et al. describing how the results of NASA's space-based scientific research is extended for the benefit of society. The NASA Science Mission Directorate, has an objective "to expand and accelerate our use of knowledge, data, and technologies resulting from such research." A focus is to make optimal use of NASA's unique capabilities for global observation, data analysis, Earth science modeling, and basic research results. To this end, NASA collaborates with partners from other Federal agencies, from industry, and from academia to demonstrate the capacity to improve future operational systems. NASA and partnering organizations focus on the following 12 applications: Agricultural Efficiency, Air Quality, Aviation, Carbon Management, Coastal Management, Disaster Management, Ecological Management, Energy Management, Homeland Security, Invasive Species, Public Health, and Water Management.
NASA collaborates with partner organizations working in these national priority areas to help integrate NASA's Earth-Sun system scientific data into their policy and management decision support tools. (see Figure 1) The desired outcome is for NASA's Earth-Sun system products to enhance the partner organizations' decision support capabilities, resulting in visible, real-world results, that the partner organization can adopt or adapt for operational use. To that end, the goal of the Homeland Security program element is to enable beneficial use of NASA Earth-Sun system science research, observations, models, and technologies to enhance decision support capabilities serving homeland security missions.
Figure 1:A "missions" to "models" to "decision support tool" process is depicted to demonstrate the systematic approach to decision tool enhancement of societal benefit. Image courtesy DHS.Click on image to see enlarged.
Major tenets of the Homeland Security Program's goals include the following:
Develop and evolve a network of partnerships with appropriate homeland security organizations, both internal and external to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Identify and assess partners' homeland security responsibilities, plans, and decision support tools and evaluate the capacity of NASA science results to support these partners.
Validate and verify applications of results with partners, including development of products and prototypes to address partners' requirements.
With partners, document the value of Earth-Sun system science results in decision support tools and support the transition of science information products from research to operations.
Communicate results and improved processes and tools to appropriate homeland security communities, committees, and stakeholders.
Figure 2: Image courtesy DHS.
A systems engineering approach is used to advance the use of NASA's 30 Earth-Sun spacecraft missions and 100 sensors. NASA Earth-Sun system science results have the capacity to meet several homeland security needs. These include enhanced tools to forecast the impacts of chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological terrorism; geospatial enabling of homeland security operations. The focus is on decision support tools related to the following classes of issues:
Homeland security planning and decision support system strategies
Integrated center operations — for example, those for air transport and diffusion
Coordination of the National Response Plan with the DHS and with the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology (OFCM)
Information technology, interoperability, and Web services
Research and development of model and data assimilation and improved predictive capability
Coordination of international security
Economic management and the "built" environment (buildings and physical structures)
Public response, preparedness, recovery, and welfare
Table 1. Primary NASA Homeland Security Program Partners
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Humanitarian Information Unit of the State Department
Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)
Department of Defense (DOD)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Department of Energy (DOE)
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Within the guidance and charter of the its Homeland Security Tiger Team, NASA works with its partners, federal agencies, and regional and national organizations that have homeland security responsibilities and mandates to support homeland security managers (see Table 1). Primary partners are the DHS, the Humanitarian Information Unit of the State Department, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Department of Defense, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Related national priority activities include Public Health, Agricultural Efficiency, Disaster Management, Aviation, Air Quality, Energy Management, and Ecological Forecasting. Through its activities, NASA provides results that support the administration's Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the Homeland Security Committee of the Office of Science, Technology, and Policy (OSTP) as well as the Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction of OSTP, OFCM, the Federal Committee for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, and the interagency programs on Climate Change Science and Technology.
Table 2. Priority Missions and Models for the Homeland Security Program
NASA Earth-Observing Missions
Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT)
Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM)
National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS)
NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP)
Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO)
Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE)
EPA's Aerial Locations of Hazardous Atmospheres (ALOHA)
Pennsylvania State University/National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5)
National Center for Environmental Prediction Early (Eta) model
NASA Earth-observing spacecraft missions include Terra, Aqua, Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT), CloudSat, Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP), Cloud-Aerosol LiDAR and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO), and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). (See Table 2)
Contributing Earth science models include the EPA's Aerial Locations of Hazardous Atmospheres (ALOHA), NOAA's Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory (HYSPLIT), the Pennsylvania State University/National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5), and the National Center for Environmental Prediction Early (Eta) model. Air plume transport models are also important to the Homeland Security Application. NASA's role in air transport and diffusion models will be to bridge the gap from mesoscale to microscale/urban scale.
Potential Homeland Security Issues
Through an integrated team, NASA consults with partners to identify important issues facing the homeland security community, to examine associated decision support tools, and to determine priorities within the homeland security portfolio to evaluate the potential capacity of NASA research results to contribute to integrated solutions. Topics include the following:
Aviation security and severe weather and precipitation, to understand deposition and chemical change
Water quality issues related to terrorism
Air quality issues related to terrorism and air plume dispersion
National disaster response planning
Interoperability and information technologies
International disaster coordination and development
USDA food security needs for global monitoring information
Interagency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center
Figure 3: Image courtesy DHS.Click on image to see enlarged.
Homeland Security Presidential Directive #5 (HSPD 5) assigns the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security the role of principal federal official for domestic incident management. To execute the responsibilities associated with this role, the Department of Homeland Security requires near-real-time information to build a common operating picture. The Homeland Security Council Deputies Committee on April 15, 2004 clearly stated its need for a coordinated federal approach to atmospheric hazards by creating the Interagency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center (IMAAC). IMAAC will provide the single federal prediction of atmospheric hazards and related consequence for incidents of national significance. The IMAAC directly supports the local, state, and federal emergency response organizations including the Homeland Security Operations Center. It brings to bear the best resources of the federal atmospheric modeling community as a single resource focused on providing the best prediction in the shortest amount of time. Federal, state, and local emergency response organizations require timely and accurate weather information and the capacity to model contaminant dispersion for all types of incidents and accidents. IMAAC will utilize the best tools from all federal agencies to develop the best solution to the particular problem for any given incident.
The primary and most urgent objective for IMAAC is to provide the best available information for atmospheric hazard predictions to DHS and other agencies enhancing appropriate emergency response and consequence management decisions. These model predictions can benefit from NASA Earth observation spacecraft missions that are generally used for research of weather observations, such as TRMM, Terra/Aqua/Aura, CloudSat, QuikSCAT, EO-1, and Landsat. The focus of is to ensure that NASA's science results and missions are integrated into solutions for the benchmark capacity of the IMAAC and HSOC activities early in their formulation stages.
Project plans specify science observations, models, and other outputs to the decision support tools. NASA projects related to enhancing Homeland Security's decision support systems, such as the IMAAC, expect to use observations from sensors onboard Terra, Aqua, EO-1, Landsat, GRACE, CloudSat, NPP, NPOESS, Aquarius, and HYDROS. NASA's role is to provide valuable remote sensing capabilities from NASA research to enhance the IMAAC mission for Atmospheric Transport and Diffusion (ATD) detection and response.
Figure 4: Image courtesy DHS.Click on image to see enlarged.
As an R&D agency, NASA has invested in three areas applicable to ATD: sensor technology, platform technology, and modeling and computing. Tropospheric chemistry is considered to be the next frontier of atmospheric chemistry, and understanding and predicting the global influence of natural and human-induced effects on tropospheric chemistry will be the next challenge for atmospheric research over the foreseeable future. NASA's interest in trace gas species in the troposphere has driven investment in a number of active sensing techniques; e.g., differential absorption LiDAR. Experimental airborne prototypes are being developed and tested in various suborbital missions for tropospheric profiling of chemical species and may be adapted or used in homeland security applications. For example, wildfire community unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) can be used to monitor hot spots as well as wildfire emissions. These sensors can be tuned or built to observe a variety of chemical and thermal signatures to recognized human-induced disasters.
NASA is investing in autonomous suborbital platforms that simultaneously enable in situ planetary exploration and improve the targeting capability of Earth observational systems. Investments in airspace improvements that provide UAVs with access to the National Airspace System and with in-vehicle technology for safe robotic flight in populated areas can directly enable in situ observations of hazardous airborne material without endangering pilots. For many years, NASA has invested significantly in the study and understanding of forecast and modeling uncertainties of forecasting Earth system processes. NASA makes significant investments in the development of data assimilation systems (DASs) to support research in medium-range weather forecasting and climate projections. This data assimilation work now extends to the development of land-surface DASs and their integration into atmospheric simulation systems, to the development of an ocean DAS, and to collaboration with the National Weather Service to build a mesoscale atmospheric DAS. NASA's data assimilation work is also being applied to the study of the Earth's carbon cycle (see the article by Edwin Sheffner in this issue), of global precipitation, and of the Earth's hydrologic cycle.
While much of NASA's work with data assimilation and with forecast and modeling uncertainty has been applied to spatial and temporal scales much larger than those relevant to ATD modeling, a great deal of the technology that has been developed and many of the lessons that have been learned can be transferred directly to smaller scales. The real challenge is to build a program where people from a varied range of disciplines are able to communicate.
NASA has had extensive experience in using observation system experiments to evaluate the impact of various observations on global-scale atmospheric predictions. NASA's experience also extends to using observation system simulation experiments that first simulate the atmospheric observations and then predict the impact that these simulated observations would have on atmospheric predictions. These same experimental techniques can be used to determine the impact that on-site data will have on ATD simulations that will subsequently help build ATD sensor networks.
NASA has invested heavily in multi-model ensemble techniques to better understand model and observation uncertainty. Ensemble Kalman filters have been used to estimate model spread, which significantly reduces the number of ensemble members necessary, compared with those needed in a straightforward Monte Carlo approach (statistical sampling). The agency has also carried out research on the use of the breeding vectors to generate optimal forecast ensembles. All of these ensemble techniques can be fully adapted to the art of data assimilation for ATD modeling.
Figure 5: Image courtesy DHS.Click on image to see enlarged.
The Program Management Team in Homeland Security uses performance measures to track progress, to identify issues, to evaluate projects, to make adjustments, and to establish results of the Program Element. These measures serve as condition indicators to help monitor progress within and across specific project activities to ensure that the Program meets its goals and objectives. The Management Team continually analyzes these measures by tracking conditions and by identifying issues to keep the Program aligned to agency plans to meet its objectives.
The Program uses two performance measures: Program Management measures assess activities within the Program, and Performance measures assess activities external to the Program. The Applied Sciences Program also uses this information in preparing Integrated Budget Performance Document directions and U.S. Office of Management and Budget Program Assessment Rating Tool responses.
Through a systematic and integrated approach to extending the results of its research efforts, NASA enhances the task of homeland security. As more and better decision support tools are developed by our federal partner agencies, NASA will be there to incorporate their knowledge strategically to get the most benefit to society for the investment made by the Nation.
About the Authors
Mr. Ambroseearned a BS degree from the University of Maryland in 1977 in Physical Sciences/Meteorology with minors in Astronomy and Geology. He joined NOAA in 1978 in the Office of Oceanography of the National Ocean Service and continued his career at NOAA at the National Weather Service Headquarters and the National Environmental Data and Information Service as a physical scientist, meteorologist, and program manager for 23 years. In 2000 Ambrose joined the Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service as Director of the National Wetlands Inventory Center. In 2002 he became Program Manager for Disaster Management and Homeland Security applications at NASA Headquarters, Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. Mr. Ambrose can be reached at [email protected].
Dr. Davishas served in various capacities with NASA over the past 17 years with the focus of his research primarily on applied science in earth observations. Dr. Davis helped develop the Commercial Remote Sensing Program at Stennis Space Center and has served in the past few years as the Deputy Program Manager for the Disaster Management and Homeland Security Applications within NASA's Applied Science Program. Dr. Davis has represented NASA at several large incident emergency response operations — including several hurricanes, the World Trade Center, and the Shuttle Columbia recovery. Dr. Davis is currently on detail to the Department of Homeland Security as the Director of the Interim Interagency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center.
Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, 2004. Federal Research and Development Needs and Priorities for Atmospheric Transport and Diffusion Modeling. FCM R23 2004. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington, DC, September 2004. Joint Action Group for Atmospheric Transport and Diffusion Modeling (Research and Development Plan). 207 p. http://www.ofcm.gov/r23/r23-2004/pdf/fcm-r23-2004.pdf (accessed May 5, 2005).