About Doug Morton
Doug Morton is a physical scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Morton also holds a position as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. He uses satellite data to study land use change in tropical forests, including deforestation, forest degradation, and agricultural land uses that replace tropical forests.
Morton is also part of the research team for the Global Fire Emissions Database, an effort to combine multiple sources of satellite data to better understand fire activity, greenhouse gas emissions from fires, and changes in savanna and tropical forest ecosystems following fire events.
Prior to his work with NASA, he earned his bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. In 2002, he obtained his masters from Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. During his time at Yale, he began working in the Brazilian Amazon to understand the impacts of climate and land use changes on tropical forests. NASA satellite data provide essential information for these studies, including the opportunity to monitor fires, rainfall, and deforestation across the entire Amazon basin each day. Morton earned his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 2008.
In the past decade, his experience has included extensive field campaigns, totaling more than a year and a half spent in the Amazon rainforest, where among other things he looked at the dynamics of agriculture and deforestation. These assignments helped him to link information at different scales, from field measurements of an acre of rainforest or an individual farm field to satellite observations of the entire region. He was able to examine biodiversity in the forest, diverse agricultural uses at the forest frontier, and connections between the managed and natural systems of the Amazon basin.
He says that working at NASA starts with wanting to know how the world works. "When, where and why are forests and croplands changing are some of the main questions I ask using NASA satellite data," says Morton. "At NASA, we do Earth Science research in a way that nobody else can do it."
Morton says that Suomi NPP reflects NASA's expertise in building Earth observing satellites. "I could not do what I do without satellites. Every day, someplace on the globe is burning," says Morton. "Finding those fires and understanding their impacts is not something we could understand without our fleet of Earth observing satellites."
About Suomi NPP
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC
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Understanding, monitoring, and predicting the course of long-term climate change and short-term weather conditions remain tasks of profound importance. Economic competitiveness, human health and welfare, and global security all depend in part on our ability to understand and adapt to global environmental changes.
Over the last dozen years, NASA has launched a series of satellites – known collectively as the Earth Observing System – that has provided critical insights into the dynamics of the entire Earth system: clouds, oceans, vegetation, ice, solid Earth and atmosphere. Now NASA is helping to create a new generation of satellites to extend and improve upon the Earth system data records established by EOS. The Suomi NPP mission is a bridge between NOAA and NASA legacy Earth observing missions and NOAA's next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). Suomi NPP flies for the first time the groundbreaking new Earth-observing instruments that JPSS will use operationally. The first satellite in the JPSS series, JPSS-1, is targeted for launch in early 2017.
Suomi NPP carries five science instruments and tests key technologies for the JPSS missions. Suomi NPP is the first satellite mission to address the challenge of acquiring a wide range of land, ocean, and atmospheric measurements for Earth system science while simultaneously preparing to address operational requirements for weather forecasting. Suomi NPP also represents the gateway to the creation of a U.S. climate monitoring system, collecting both climate and operational weather data and continuing key data records that are critical for global change science.