ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station
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Welcome to ECOSTRESS


News Flash: ECOSTRESS has now acquired over 140,000 scenes (after In Orbit Checkout)

ECOSTRESS is addressing  three overarching science questions:

  • How is the terrestrial biosphere responding to changes in water availability?
  • How do changes in diurnal vegetation water stress impact the global carbon cycle?
  • Can agricultural vulnerability be reduced through advanced monitoring of agricultural water consumptive use and improved drought estimation?

The ECOSTRESS mission is answering these questions by accurately measuring the temperature of plants.  Plants regulate their temperature by releasing water through tiny pores on their leaves called stomata.  If they have sufficient water they can maintain their temperature, but if there is insufficient water, their temperatures rise and this temperature rise can be measured with ECOSTRESS.  The images acquired by ECOSTRESS are the most detailed temperature images of the surface ever acquired from space and can be used to measure the temperature of an individual farmers field.

One of the core products that will be produced by ECOSTRESS team is the Evaporative Stress Index (ESI). ESI is a leading drought indicator - it can indicate that plants are stressed and that a drought is likely to occur providing the option for decision makers to take action. 

NASA's ECOSTRESS Drought Stress Comparison

Southern California Fires

The Western United States has been entrenched in an Extreme and Exceptional drought that has extended from the summer and into the fall of 2020. NASA's ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) imaged the drought on Oct. 16, 2020, and compared the same area to an image from ECOSTRESS taken a year earlier on Oct. 16, 2019. The bottom image shows the percentage change in plant water stress from 2019 to 2020.

The images at left zoom into the Arizona and New Mexico border and Navajo Nation Territory area, featuring the ECOSTRESS Evaporative Stress Index (ESI), which shows plant water stress. The inset images on the right zoom further into the region, showing circular agricultural fields that have been irrigated. Blue colors represent low stress and high water use, whereas red colors represent high stress and low water use. Irrigation is able to alleviate plant water stress in many of the fields while the surrounding landscape suffers from the drought, though numerous agricultural fields are shut down in the drought image.

The primary mission of ECOSTRESS, which launched to the International Space Station in June 2018, is to provide insight into plants' health, especially in a drought, by taking their temperature. Plants regulate their temperature by releasing water through tiny pores on their leaves. With sufficient water, they can maintain their temperature. When they lack water, their temperatures rise; ECOSTRESS can measure this change.

Managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory built and manages the ECOSTRESS mission for the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. ECOSTRESS is an Earth Venture Instrument mission; the program is managed by NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Future studies could use ECOSTRESS data products in a similar fashion as ESI was used to assess the drought pictured above.

For information on Earth science activities aboard the International Space Station, visit: