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Earth Observatory Glossary
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Program Manager: David Herring,
Responsible NASA official: Dr. Michael D. King,

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  backscatter Process by which up to 25% of radiant energy from the sun is reflected or scattered away from the surface by clouds.
  band In radio, a continuous sequence of broadcasting frequencies within given limits.

In radiometry, a relatively narrow region of the electromagnetic spectrum to which a remote sensor responds; a multispectral sensor makes measurements in a number of spectral bands.

In spectroscopy, spectral regions where atmospheric gases absorb (and emit) radiation, e.g., the 15 жm carbon dioxide absorption band, the 6.3 жm water vapor absorption band, and the 9.6 жm ozone absorption band.

  bandwidth The total range of frequency required to pass a specific modulated signal without distortion or loss of data. The ideal bandwidth allows the signal to pass under conditions of maximum AM or FM adjustment. (Too narrow a bandwidth will result in loss of data during modulation peaks. Too wide a bandwidth will pass excessive noise along with the signal.) In FM, radio frequency signal bandwidth is determined by the frequency deviation of the signal.
  barometer An instrument used to measure atmospheric pressure. A standard mercury barometer has a glass column about 30 inches long, closed at one end, with a mercury-filled reservoir. Mercury in the tube adjusts until the weight of the mercury column balances the atmospheric force exerted on the reservoir. High atmospheric pressure forces the mercury higher in the column. Low pressure allows the mercury to drop to a lower level in the column. An aneroid barometer uses a small, flexible metal box called an aneroid cell. The box is tightly sealed after some of the air is removed, so that small changes in external air pressure cause the cell to expand or contract.

  base A substance that forms a salt when it reacts with acid. A base is a substance that removes hydrogen ions (protons) from an acid and combines with them in a chemical reaction.
  beamwidth The measure of the 'width' of an antenna pattern, measured in degrees of arc. Generally an antenna with low gain has a wide pattern, receiving signals well from a number of different directions.
  bearing The combination of antenna azimuth and elevation required to point (aim) an antenna at a spacecraft. The bearing for geostationary (i.e., GOES) satellites is constant. The bearing for polar-orbiting satellites varies continuously.
  berm A platform of wave-deposited sediment that is flat or slopes slightly landward.
  bioassay A measurement of the effects of a substance on living organisms.
  biodegradation Decomposition of material by microorganisms.
  biodiversity The totality of genes, species, and ecosystems in a region or the world.
  biogenic Produced by natural processes. Usually used in the context of emissions that are produced by plants and animals.
  biogeochemical cycles Movements through the Earth system of key chemical constituents essential to life, such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus.
  biomass Organic nonfossil material of biological origin. For example, trees and plants are biomass.
  biome Well-defined terrestrial environment (e.g., desert, tundra, or tropical forest). The complex of living organisms found in an ecological region.
  biosphere Part of the Earth system in which life can exist, between the outer portion of the geosphere and the inner portion of the atmosphere.
  biota The plant and animal life of a region or area.
  blackbody An ideal emitter which radiates energy at the maximum possible rate per unit area at each wavelength for any given temperature. A blackbody also absorbs all the radiant energy incident on it; i.e., no energy is reflected or transmitted.
  blizzard A severe weather condition characterized by low temperatures and strong winds (greater than 35 mph) bearing a great amount of snow, either falling or blowing. When these conditions persist after snow has stopped falling, it is called a ground blizzard.
  boreal Northern; from the Greek name for the Goddess of the North Wind. A boreal forest is the set of forest ecosystems than can survive in the north.
  Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS) A global change project to study and understand the interaction between the boreal forest biome and the atmosphere.

See also:
Introduction to BOREAS

  brightness temperature A measure of the intensity of radiation thermally emitted by an object, given in units of temperature because there is a proportional correlation between the intensity of the radiation emitted and physical temperature of the radiating body.
  broadleaf The leaves of trees associated with deciduous forests.
  bus The basic frame of a satellite system that includes the propulsion and stabilization systems but not the instruments or data systems.

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