The Earth Observing System, its Evolution and Achievements: What does the Future Hold?

Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences
4 pm on Thursday, February 17, 2022
Available via zoom and in-person in Harshbarger 110
Contact the department for zoom details or to subscribe to the email list
Michael D. King
Senior Research Scientist, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado


The development of the Earth Observing System (EOS) can be traced back to 1980 and an international effort to understand the physical basis of climate in response to droughts and floods that revealed societal vulnerability to climate variability. In subsequent years the importance of having an integrated programmatic framework as a central paradigm of both national and international programs began to be recognized. NASA developed the Earth Observing System as this program, which evolved from its 1988 solicitation to its eventual implementation as 10 different satellites and many supporting interdisciplinary and modeling investigations, with a high emphasis on data quality (calibration and validation), data availability, algorithm transparency, and interdisciplinary science. I will review the evolution of this program, some of its major accomplishments, and discuss the future evolution of NASA’s Earth System Observatory, as far as my crystal ball will allow.


After receiving his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences (1977) from the University of Arizona, Michael King joined NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in January 1978 as a physical scientist, where he served as Project Scientist of the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment from 1983-1992 and Senior Project Scientist of NASA’s Earth Observing System from 1992 to 2008. After retiring, he joined LASP as a Senior Research Scientist. King’s research experience includes conceiving, developing, and operating multispectral scanning radiometers from a number of aircraft platforms in field campaigns ranging from arctic stratus clouds to smoke from the Kuwait oil fires and biomass burning in Brazil and Africa. He has also developed inversion algorithms for deriving aerosol size distribution and refractive index from ground-based sun/sky radiometers. Dr. King is Team Leader of the MODIS science team on the Terra and Aqua satellites. As a team member, he also led the development of 5 science algorithms run routinely to process MODIS data, including the algorithm for determining cloud optical thickness and effective particle radius of both liquid water and ice clouds. He has authored over 107 papers published in refereed scientific journals, in addition to editing 1 Book (Our Changing Planet: The View from Space), 5 Scientific Documents, and 27 book chapters.