Land Remote Sensing Program
Land Remote Sensing Program Featured Science Archive Text Size: + | -
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Landsat 8 is demonstrating promising new capabilities for water quality assessment. Satellite-based instruments allow for more frequent observations over broader areas than physical water sampling. Four federal agencies-NASA, NOAA, EPA, and USGS-are joining forces to develop an early warning system for toxic and nuisance algal blooms. Through this project, satellite data on harmful algal blooms will be converted to a format that stakeholders can use through mobile devices and web portals. This will improve detection of these blooms and help researchers better understand the conditions under which they occur.
USGS scientists used Landsat data to determine that forests, wetlands and farms in the eastern U.S. naturally store 300 million tons of carbon a year, which is nearly 15 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions EPA estimates the country emits each year or an amount that exceeds and offsets yearly U.S. car emissions. In conjunction with the national assessment, USGS has a LandCarbon site which allows users to see the land and water carbon storage and change in their ecosystems between 2005 and 2050 in the lower 48 states. Biological carbon storage - also known as carbon sequestration - is the process by which carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere and stored as carbon in vegetation, soils and sediment. The USGS estimates the ability of different ecosystems to store carbon now and in the future, providing vital information for land-use and land-management decisions. Management of carbon stored in our ecosystems and agricultural areas is relevant both for mitigation of climate change and for adaptation to such changes.
When it comes to helping communities across the US stay up-to-date on their flood risk, the Landsat satellite can take a bow. Landsat images help track urban change, a factor that can impact a community's flood risk. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, uses these images to help identify where they should launch a new flood study. Flood studies determine how prone different neighborhoods are to floods of a certain intensity or likelihood.
The Department of the Interior has released its remote sensing activities report. This report, from the DOI Remote Sensing Working Group, provides a sampling of the many FY12 applications of remote sensing across the Department. Remotely sensed data, information, and resources contribute significantly to mission-critical work across the DOI. Spanning data sources from aerial photography, to moderate resolution satellite data, to highly specialized imaging sensors and platforms, DOI personnel use remotely sensing capabilities to evaluate and monitor land-surface conditions over the vast areas for which DOI has responsibility.
What is the coldest place on Earth? It is a high ridge in Antarctica on the East Antarctic Plateau where temperatures in several hollows can dip below minus 133.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 92 degrees Celsius) on a clear winter night.
With remote sensing satellites, including Landsat 8, researchers have recorded new measurements of the Earth's coldest temperatures. The satellite imagery not only allows scientists to take the temperature of these inhospitable locations, but enables them to figure out what sort of weather brings on the record-breaking cold.
The quest to find out just how cold it can get on Earth -- and why -- started when NASA researchers were studying large snow dunes, sculpted and polished by the wind, on the East Antarctic Plateau. When the scientists looked closer, they noticed cracks in the snow surface between the dunes, possibly created when wintertime temperatures got so low the top snow layer shrunk. This led scientists to wonder what the temperature range was, and prompted them to hunt for the coldest places using data from satellite sensors : MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer), AVHRR (Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer), and Landsat 8 - TRS (Thermal Infrared Sensor).
A new study based on Landsat Earth-observing satellite data comprehensively describes changes in the world's forests from the beginning of this century. Published in Science today, the study found that from 2000 to 2012 global forests experienced a loss of 888,000 square miles (2.3 million square kilometers), roughly the land area of the U.S. states east of the Mississippi River. During the study period, global forests also gained an area of 309,000 square miles (800,000 square kilometers), approximately the combined land area of Texas and Louisiana.
"Tracking changes in the world's forests is critical because forests have direct impacts on local and national economies, on climate and local weather, and on wildlife and clean water," said Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science. "This fresh view of recent changes in the world's forests is thorough, objective, visually compelling, and vitally important."
The Department of the Interior has released its remote sensing activities report for Fiscal Year 2011 (FY11). This report from the DOI Remote Sensing Working Group (DOIRSWG) provides a sampling of the many FY11 applications of remote sensing across the Department. Remotely sensed data, information, and resources contribute significantly to mission-critical work across the DOI. Spanning data sources from aerial photography, to moderate resolution satellite data, to highly specialized imaging sensors and platforms, DOI personnel use remotely sensing capabilities to evaluate and monitor land-surface conditions over the vast areas for which DOI has responsibility.
Landsat satellites provide decision makers with key information about the world's food, forests, water and how these and other land resources are being used. The Landsat Application Book, Landsat: Continuing to Improve Everyday Life (PDF, 101 Mb), explores a number of important everyday uses of Landsat that benefit us as a society. The launch of the LDCM satellite ensures that Landsat data will continue to enable these applications.
Global climate is changing. USGS is using remote sensing data to help develop new climate information products called Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) and Climate Data Records (CDRs). Together, USGS CDRs and ECVs can provide an authoritative basis for regional to continental scale identification of historical change, monitoring of current conditions, and predicting future scenarios. Find out more...
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