Thursday, 7 September 2017


So this time we've come to California, to scan the largest organisms on Earth, the giant sequoias of Northern California. And what a sight they are.
Feeling very insignificant.
I always find big trees can have an overwhelming sense of scale - perhaps it's their size, coupled with the often (but not always) wilderness of the surrounding environment. But these are genuinely breathtaking - and at 60+ m are actually on the small side. Next week, we'll be in a grove with some of the 100+ m real giants. I can't wait! Meanwhile, myself, Andy, Laura Duncanson and David Lagomasino from UMD, will be working here.

Everywhere you look - just outside the front door.
We're here as part of a NASA-funded Carbon Monitoring System project led by colleagues Lola Fatoyinbo and Laura Duncanson of Univ. of Maryland and NASA Godard, and Amy Neuenschwander, from the University of Texas. The project, Future Mission Fusion for High Biomass Forest Carbon Accounting, is using data from Gabon, Costa Rica and here in the US to help calibrate and validate estimates of C stocks from a trio of new spaceborne sensors which will be launcched in the next 2 years, GEDI, ICESat-2 and NISAR. With ESA's BIOMASS mission also being launched around the same time, there is huge potential for combining these complementary new observations to dramatically advance our understanding of forest state, structure and biomass. We're working with the GEDI and BIOMASS teams, using our TLS work to provide key new observations of biomass and structure in a range of forests, but particularly forests with large trees and high biomass. Providing better measurements of biomass and structure will allow the GEDI and BIOMASS science teams to test their retrieval algorithms, and potentially develop better ones.

Even Andy is impressed by 3m DBH. A bit.
It's a lovely place to work - not just the forest plots themselves, but the surrounding landscape of hills, vineyards, rivers, and the coast just a few miles away. Fortunately we missed the heatwave of last week - 43 C isn't much fun in anyone's book - the landscape is totally parched after several years of drought and low rainfall.
Not much swimming here.
I've hired a bike to ride some of the amazing roads in the early mornings. I mentioned to the hire guys that the forecast mentioned it might even rain. They laughed: "Hasn't rained in 6 months. It's not going to start now". This morning?
Eerie, atmospheric. And wet.

I rode 40 miles and got absolutely soaked. But it was still beautiful - eerie and quiet up in the forest groves. At the risk of sounding corny, being among so many very old and very large trees and yet seeing so many charred, or rotting rotting hulks - remnants of even larger, older trees that were logged out and sold, does remind you of how fragile this all is. You can see why they were so attractive to the lumber men but once they're gone, they're gone.

Obligatory lidar forest shot.

And getting a 2.8m DBH. We've had 3+ already.
More pictures of the giants in Armstrong to follow. And David's cool 14 GoPro 3D camera setup, for capturing 3D data via SfM (niiiice!).


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