Land Remote Sensing Program
Land Remote Sensing Program Highlights Archive Text Size: + | -
NOTE: Information and links in Land Remote Sensing Highlights are current at the time the information is posted.
The Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NASA presented the 2014 William T. Pecora Award for achievement in Earth remote sensing to Christopher O. Justice, professor and chair of geographical sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park, was honored for advancing the understanding of the Earth by means of remote sensing. The government and industry team that built and now operates Landsat 8, the latest in the Landsat series of satellites, was also acknowledged for their contributions to study of Earth's land surface and coastal regions.
September 23, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior) released a collection of higher-resolution (more detailed) elevation datasets for Africa. The datasets were released following the President's commitment at the United Nations to provide assistance for global efforts to combat climate change. The broad availability of more detailed elevation data across most of the African continent through the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) will improve baseline information that is crucial to investigating the impacts of climate change on African communities.
Changes in land cover affect the global climate by absorbing and reflecting solar radiation, and by altering fluxes of heat, water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other trace gases. Detailed assessments-regional, global, daily, and seasonal-of land use and land cover are needed to monitor biodiversity loss and ecosystem dynamics. Satellite imagery is the best source of such data, especially over large areas. In many cases, satellite data are restricted or charged for. Not true for U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) satellite imagery. A new era of open-access satellite data began in 2008 when the USGS released its Landsat archive, the world's largest collection of Earth imagery, to the public free of charge. According to an article by Michael A. Wulder and Nicholas C. Coops in Nature magazine: "Freely available satellite imagery will improve science and environmental-monitoring products."
A recent White House-led assessment found that Landsat is among the Nation's most critical Earth observing systems, second only to GPS and weather. A new USGS study,Landsat and Water - Case Studies of the Uses and Benefits of Landsat Imagery in Water Resources, provides examples of why Landsat is so valuable. Water is managed by many levels of federal, state, local, and tribal governments; by the private sector; through the courts; and through international and interstate treaties and compacts. At all these levels, water users and managers rely more and more on Landsat data about water conditions both at the moment and in the context of four decades of Landsat record.
Fundamental knowledge of the land and its resources is a basic need for effective government and a productive economy in any nation. More than 30 countries now have Earth observing satellites, reflecting a wide range of national priorities around the world for environmental monitoring and economic growth. With minimal restrictions, Earth observation data provided through public funding are made open to the public to advance human knowledge and enable private industry to provide value-added commercial services. The plan includes a list of 145 high-impact Earth observation systems. The top 15 systems form a select top tier and are ranked in order of importance, according to carefully identified priorities. USGS systems make up three of the top 15. First on the prioritized list is the Global Position System (GPS). In second place is the national weather radar network, Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD). The USGS-related programs that follow are Landsat (ranked 3rd), airborne lidar mapping (8th), and the USGS streamgage network (13th).
Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a National Plan for Civil Earth Observations that aims to maximize the value of observations collected by Federal agencies of the Earth's land surfaces, oceans, and atmosphere. The Plan is a blueprint for future Federal investments in and strategic partnerships to advance Earth observing systems that help protect life and property, stimulate economic growth, maintain homeland security, and advance scientific research and public understanding.
USGS is developing a functional capability to obtain, characterize, manage, maintain and prioritize all Earth observing, land remote sensing user requirements. The goal is a better understanding of community needs that can be supported with land remote sensing resources, and a means to match needs with appropriate solutions in an effective and efficient way. The requirements gathered in this study were utilized as input to the USGS-NASA Sustainable Land Imagery report currently being developed, and as an input and requirement elicitation enhancement for the on-going USGS National Land Imaging Requirements Project.
The Pecora Symposium series was established by the USGS and NASA in the 1970s as a forum to foster the exchange of scientific information and results derived from applications of remotely sensed data to a broad range of land-based resources. The Technical Program Committee seeks presentations and posters that highlight past remote sensing successes, current investigations, technological advances for assessing the Earth's systems, and operational monitoring of land surface.
To mark an extremely successful first year of space operation for Landsat 8, the scientists and imagery experts at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center have selected 10 sets of images that demonstrate the broad range of changes on the land that Landsat 8 has observed in its first year and compiled them in a special collection - the Landsat 8 Yearbook.
Comparing Landsat satellite images over multiple years reveals slow and subtle changes as well as rapid and devastating ones. The Tracking Change Over Time lesson plan (grades 5-8), enhances students' learning of geography, earth science, and problem solving by seeing landscape changes from space. The lesson plan includes an introduction to satellite images, an introduction to remote sensing, instructions on how to use the free software MultiSpec, and modules that go deeper into specific areas of remote sensing application. The latest module, "River Flooding," is now available. Students discover how a flood in June 2008 affected southern Indiana and Illinois. The module takes a problem-based approach to show students how satellite images can be used to analyze the changes that a flood causes. The images used in the lesson, along with supplementary materials, are also available at http://eros.usgs.gov/educational-activities.
The William T. Pecora Award is presented annually to individuals or groups that have made outstanding contributions toward understanding the Earth by means of remote sensing. Nominations are accepted for public and private sector individuals, teams, organizations, and professional societies. Both national and international nominations are welcome.
It has been a full year since the launch of the Landsat 8 satellite! During this time, over 160,000 Landsat 8 images have been acquired and made available to users worldwide. Landsat 8 is the latest success in a decades-long NASA and U.S. Geological Survey partnership that has provided a continuous record of change across Earth's land surfaces since 1972.
The USGS is committed to continually improving the data coming from its latest satellite, Landsat 8. Since its launch in February 2013, the project's engineers have been refining the data as they learn more about the performance of the satellite. On February 3, 2014, the Landsat 8 archive will be cleared from the online cache and reprocessed to take advantage of calibration improvements identified during its first year of operation. All Landsat 8 scenes will be removed from the online cache at this time and these data will then be reprocessed starting with the most recent acquisitions and proceeding back to the beginning of the mission. Reprocessing is expected to take approximately 50 days. Most users will not need to reorder data currently in their local archive; however, users are encouraged to review all Landsat 8 calibration notices and evaluate the improvements as they relate to specific applications.
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