Difference from average emissions for 2014 in grams of carbon per square meter per year (Image: NASA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has published a report in which the quantity of carbon dioxide and other pollutants produced by fires that remains in the atmosphere has been determined.

The estimation of the polluting emissions into the atmosphere is possible thanks to the data produced by computer models that combine satellite observations of burned area and active fires together with information about vegetation, fuel loads, and other details. Only the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites detect approximately 10,000 active fires on a normal day of August.

Some of the conclusions of the report are summarized in NASA’s website: “In 2014, fires released about 2,030 teragrams of carbon into the atmosphere. That’s just slightly below the 2001–2013 average of 2,034... read more

Publishing Date: 19/08/2015
WorldView-3 getting ready for its launch one year ago (Image: DigitalGlobe)

The WorldView-3 satellite sensor has completed a successful year in orbit after its launch on August 13, 2014. During this year it has contributed to disaster and humanitarian efforts in critical situations such as the earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015.

The advanced fourth-generation satellite WorldView-3 was licensed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and contributed to DigitalGlobe’s constellation being its first super-spectral and high resolution commercial satellite.

The satellite sensor’s characteristics include 30 cm panchromatic resolution that collects five times more data than 70 cm imagery; Short-Wave Infrared bands (SWIR) that allow for accurate imaging through haze, fog, dust, smoke and other air-born particles; and eight multi-spectral bands.

These particularities have enabled the contribution to relief efforts in different natural and humanitarian disasters. In response to the 2015 Nepal earthquake,... read more

Publishing Date: 18/08/2015
Parts of land lost to the sea along the last four decades (Image: Zachary Tessler/USGS and NASA)

Sea-level rise is increasing the risk of flooding in coastal deltas, a recent study has shown. Global datasets help estimating how and where delta flood risk will be higher.

Deltas are prone-flooding areas where over 340m people have established their home, now future sea-level rise associated with climate change is representing a greater risk for them. The threat to all coastal communities around the world has increased in the deltas due to their exceptional geological characteristics.

A suite of global datasets has allowed a group of researchers to estimate how and where sea-level rise and land subsidence, a combination called relative sea-level rise (RSLR), will intensify delta flood risk. The highest risk increases are found in the Krishna (India), Ganges-Brahmaputra (Bangladesh), and Brahmani (India) deltas.

However, the study also includes deltas of low risk such as Mississippi (US) and Rhine (... read more

Publishing Date: 13/08/2015
Image captured by Sentinel-2A satellite on the vegetation of Northwest Sardinia, Italy (Source: ESA)

There is a need for wider coordination between conservation organizations and space agencies to decide which variables tracked from space can be useful in order to monitor changes in biodiversity on a global scale. It is crucial to identify these changes as they may very well have impacts on the occurrence of natural disasters, such as droughts, landslides, floods and wildfires. 

Although the definition of biodiversity and the factors that influence it seem clear, it is difficult to quantify, as it cannot be reduced to physical units. Moreover, scientists have tried to set variables for measuring biodiversity but they faced additional problems, as the lack of access to data, uncertainties in the continuity of observations and limitations of satellite imagery. Remote sensing through satellites can track vegetation coverage, monitor agricultural activity, soil moisture, measure height, rainfall and temperature. However, there is no agreement on how to use these measurements... read more

Publishing Date: 13/08/2015
Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, monitoring  precipitation measurements from space (Source: NASA)

A joint study by Cornell University, Princeton University and The Aerospace Corporation found that the current portfolio of rainfall satellites is insufficient to meet information needs for global flood monitoring, and that further loss of satellites would dramatically worsen data coverage.

According to the authors, there are currently 10 rainfall monitoring satellites, but four of them have become obsolete and the rest are reaching the end of their lifespan. However, no specific plans exist to replace them with new satellites that measure real-time rainfall. This is a major problem as the data captured by these space artifacts is essential for flood management: the information is introduced into sophisticated models to forecast the timing and intensity of floods, allowing governments to take action to mitigate the impact of flooding.

Even with the current set of 10 rainfall satellites, there is a lack of rainfall data for South America, Central and Eastern Africa and... read more

Publishing Date: 12/08/2015
I-Band image of the storm provided by VIIRS instrument (Image: NASA)

As ESA announced, the Meteosat Second Generation-4 (MSG-4) captured its first image of Earth yesterday, 4 August. At the same time, international satellites were providing critical information about the Super typhoon Soudelor’s, which is affecting the Pacific Ocean. These two events highlight the constant role Earth observation is playing in monitoring and forecasting climate events.

The first image captured by the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) instrument on MSG-4 has confirmed that Europe’s latest geostationary weather satellite is performing as expected as it becomes fully operational.

While MSG-4 was sending its first image, Japan’s Himawari-8 weather satellite, NASA’s National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite... read more

Publishing Date: 05/08/2015
Artist’s conception of SMAP taking data from orbit (Image: NASA)

NASA will release on August 2015 the first Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) data, the beta version of L1 radar and radiometer data. The SPAM mission was developed in order to record surface soil moisture measurements with high levels of accuracy and resolution.

It will improve weather and climate forecasts, flood predictions and drought monitoring systems. The measurements provided by the SMAP global mapping open a new path for monitoring the oceans and the terrestrial biosphere.

As explained on the website of the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), “the SMAP active and passive microwave measurement approach builds on the heritage of earlier microwave sensors used for Earth monitoring. Combining the two measurements with a shared antenna and providing global mapping capability with frequent revisit are advanced capabilities that are particularly advantageous for the measurement of surface soil moisture and... read more

Publishing Date: 04/08/2015
First step to get located and informed about surrounding geographic data (Image: Esri)

A new app called Field Notes, developed by the mapping technology company Esri, allows identifying the impact of climate change in the surroundings of the user's area.

This new product could help governments, academics and policymakers, among others, to prepare for the upcoming events caused by climate change. At the same time, it creates a higher understanding about the world and the ongoing changes.

The project offers precise geographic information about any location on the globe. This includes the risk of natural hazards and could for instance describe how far is the nearest earthquake zone or the nearest volcano.  

“One of the things that has been lacking before this map came out is this sort of common language way of talking about the eco-system at a higher level,” said Sean Breyer, content program manager at Esri.

The idea of the app came from a partnership between Esri and a U.S. Geological Survey scientist with the aim of showing how different... read more

Publishing Date: 04/08/2015
DEVELOP participants using Earth Observation imagery (Source: NASA)

DEVELOP, NASA’s Applied Sciences’ Capacity Building Program, organizes a Virtual Poster Session (VPS) for this summer 2015 where participants can send their projects on Earth observation (EO), disaster risks, water monitoring, mapping invasive species distribution and environmental concerns. It features 178 researchers across 15 DEVELOP locations, who carry out 38 projects.

The participant projects need to analyse societal and scientific dilemmas and discover ways in which these issues can be better forecasted, monitored or mitigated through the application of NASA EO.

The competition consists of two rounds. The first round is between July 31 and August 11, and the second one between August 14 and 25. The participants will have dialogue with Earthzine readers in a blogging competition sponsored by Esri. After the first round, judges will choose a project in each category and after the second one they will elect the grand-prize winner on August 29. The selection... read more

Publishing Date: 03/08/2015
Fire seasons have become longer in areas marked with red and orange (Image: NASA)

A new joint study between the U.S. Forest Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Interim Reanalysis (ERA-Interim) reveals that fire seasons have lengthened between 1979 and 2013. Moreover, the researchers also discovered that tough fire seasons have become more frequent during this period.

This analysis was carried out by using satellite data on maximum temperatures, minimum relative humidity, the number of rain-free days, and maximum wind speeds. All are meteorological variables that have an effect on the length of fire seasons, especially if high temperatures, low humidity, rainless days, and high winds come together.

According to the research’s main maps, the areas most affected by extending fire seasons were western United States and Mexico, Brazil, and East Africa, where wild fire seasons... read more

Publishing Date: 31/07/2015
Testing phase of Sentinel-5 Precursor before its launch in 2016 (Image: ESA)

The Sentinel-5 Precursor will start its testing phase leaving from the UK, before its launch from Plesetsk, Russia in April 2016. The Sentinel-5 Precursor is using the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROMPOMI) and it has been developed by Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands for the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Netherlands Office.

The new aircraft will provide atmospheric chemistry data for the global monitoring programme for environment and security, Copernicus.  It aims to take a higher resolution of measurements of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, methane and other atmospheric pollutants. This information will enable improved climate models and weather forecasting to be made.  

It will also contribute to fulfill the goal to safeguard the civil population, to manage risks, and protect the environment as part of the efforts of the European institutions and public authorities at supplying geo-information products and services on the use of data... read more

Publishing Date: 29/07/2015
Annual change in groundwater storage from 2003 to 2013 in the 37 largest aquifer systems in the world (Image: NASA)

A recent study partly based on data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) has highlighted the risk of using groundwater basins for human consumption without a concrete knowledge about the remaining quantity of water.

The pair of satellites GRACE, that measures small changes in mass and gravity near Earth’s surface, has allowed scientists to observe water mass and its gravitational tug. This way they were able to follow the movements of water around the planet.

Due to the impact that running out of supplies in the current primary source of freshwater for approximately two billion people could cause, the limited knowledge on the state of large groundwater systems becomes an important risk. The research team found that the quantity of freshwater in around one third of the aquifers in the world has been strongly reduced without any supplementary recharge. Climate change and population growth are two of the major... read more

Publishing Date: 29/07/2015
CryoSat-2 satellite image measuring Arctic sea ice thickness (Image: ESA)

Researchers at London’s Global University (UCL) and the University of Leeds discovered that the volume of Arctic ice increased 33% between 2013 and 2014 due to an unusually cool summer in 2013. The study, published in Nature Geoscience and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), was carried out by using 88 million measurements of sea ice thickness recorded by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) CryoSat-2 mission between 2010 and 2014.

Between 2010 and 2012 the satellite results indicated a 14% reduction in the summertime Arctic ice volume but it was 41% higher in the summer of 2013 than in the previous year. This suggests that  Arctic sea ice may be more resilient than previously thought and is more sensitive to changes in summer melting than to winter cooling.

CryoSat-2 is an environmental satellite launched by ESA in 2010. It provides scientists with data about the polar ice caps and tracks changes in the thickness of the ice with a... read more

Publishing Date: 27/07/2015
Extract from ALSAT-2A image of Benabdelmalek Ramdane in Mostaganem Province, Algeria (Image: ASAL)

ALSAT-2A, the optical Earth observation satellite of the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL), Regional Support Office of UN-SPIDER, reached five years in orbit on July 12.

After these successful five years, it will continue developing observation activities, providing panchromatic images with 2,5m resolution and multispectral images with 10m resolution.

Since the launch of ALSAT-2A in 2010 on a PSLV launcher (PSLV-C15) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota, India, the satellite has provided more than 120,000 Earth observation images, covering a total of more than 8 493 millions km2. The coverage over Algeria represents almost the 50% of the totality and the whole African continent reaches 73,5%.

Early warning, disaster management and emergency response have been some of the most important activities developed by ALSAT-2A during these five years. 

Publishing Date: 22/07/2015
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Wildfires can be easier detected thanks to the new satellite-based tool (Image: NASA)

NASA has funded a new satellite-based fire detection tool in operation now at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (USFS).

The new tool uses high-resolution data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite with a cutting-edge computer model to predict how a fire will change direction based on weather and land conditions. It will allow detecting smaller fires with precise detail and will help firefighters developing their tasks.

As explained in NASA’s website, “compared to its predecessors, the enhanced VIIRS fire product enables detection every 12 hours or less of much smaller fires and provides more detail and consistent tracking of fire lines during long duration wildfires – capabilities critical for early warning systems and support of routine mapping of fire progression.”

“The high-resolution data gleaned from VIIRS [Suomi NPP’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite] are available in a short time period and... read more

Publishing Date: 20/07/2015
The new toolkit Hootenanny is based on the open architecture of OpenStreetMap (Image: OpenStreetMap)

The US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and DigitalGlobe have jointly released Hootenanny, a new open source project to enhance the way crowdsourced mapping influence geospatial big data analytics.

Through GitHub, a web-based Git repository hosting service, Hootenanny provides a scalable processing engine and interactive editing interface to help users rapidly conflate, or reconcile, map features generated from satellite imagery, unmanned aerial vehicles and mobile devices, as NGA explained.

“The commercialization of GEOINT [GEOspatial INTelligence] is leading to exponential growth of publicly available geospatial information. Hootenanny as an open source project will enable new levels of data sharing across the community that will increase our nation’s ability to quickly respond to emerging threats. This is a pro-... read more

Publishing Date: 20/07/2015
SituMap, created at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, will enhance emergency response (Image: NASA)

The company of recent creation CartoFusion Technologies has developed a mapping application called SituMap that allows first responders to effectively detect an emergency situation.

SituMap is an app created by Dr. Richard Smith, Assistant Professor of Geographic Information Science and Geospatial Surveying Engineering at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. By acting as a tablet-like digital command center, it enables first responders to see real-time information through maps of crisis areas and therefore to plan and respond faster in emergency situations.

In Sensors & Systems website the functioning of the app is explained as follows: “With the touch of a finger, the table-size display can be zoomed, rotated, and drawn on. Like a personalized version of Google... read more

Publishing Date: 14/07/2015
The Proceedings of the Third UN WCDRR now available in English (Image: Prevention Web)

The proceedings of the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) are now available in English and will be translated and made available in the other five UN languages in the next few weeks.

The document includes all the issues addressed during the five days of deliberations, discussions and presentations at Sendai City, Japan, with the occasion of the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in March 2015.

Within the proceedings, the Sendai Declaration and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, as well as a chart of the Framework, stand out. Among the additional information integrated in the document are: opening ceremony statements, brief summaries of ministerial tables, high level multi-stakeholder partnership dialogues, working sessions, special meetings and ceremonies held at the WCDRR.... read more

Publishing Date: 10/07/2015
ETSI's specifications include guidelines for dealing with earthquakes (Image: Logan Abassi-UNDP)

ETSI, producer of globally applicable standards for Information and Communications Technologies, through its Technical Committee for Satellite Earth Systems (TC SES) has published new specifications on scenarios for emergency communications during disasters, including the use of satellite networks.

These reports cover two different scenarios: a major earthquake in an urban area and a train crash in the countryside. In the first case emergency responders are spread across a wide area and may use satellite imagery to replace damaged infrastructures. In the second case, responders are more concentrated in a small area, response activities are more homogenous and satellite data is capable of offering a hub to supplement the minimal existing infrastructures.

These disaster management guidelines offer standardized “user” guidelines by using additional communication networks such as satellites and enhance coordination between several agents in charge of disaster response.... read more

Publishing Date: 08/07/2015
The last MDGs Report 2015 promotes the use of geospatial data (Image: NASA)

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report 2015 was released yesterday, 6 June. The results presented serve as the basis for the upcoming sustainable development agenda that will be adopted this year.

Geospatial information and natural disasters have found their place among the lines of the report. Location-based information is mentioned as a tool to help governments and stakeholders improving their decision-making process and setting priorities. The access to geospatial data helps dealing with social, economic and environmental challenges such as health care during virus outbreaks or global climate changes, from sea level rise to unexpected natural disasters.

“Geospatial data can support monitoring in many aspects of development, from health care to natural resource management,” can be read within the report to highlight the need of access to better data for the post-2015 development agenda.

As an example, the new Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report... read more

Publishing Date: 07/07/2015
FASTSAT, a minisatellite designed by NASA (Image: NASA)

A new report by the international consulting firm Northern Sky Research (NSR) forecasts a boom for nano and microsatellites by 2024, which would lead to a significant diversification of the satellite industry. The report, entitled “Nano and Microsatellite Markets, 2nd Edition”, states that the market for sub-100 kg space artifacts has nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014, and operators have multiplied by three in just five years.

The developers of these nano and microsatellites are mainly universities, start-ups, small government agencies and military forces with low budget and limited time and expertise but who also participate in Earth Observation, science and risk awareness.

However, this sector also faces challenges, as the shortage of affordable launch vehicles, more efficient rideshares and limited orbital diversity. Therefore, the availability of venture capital and support from national agencies will be crucial for securing investment.

Publishing Date: 25/06/2015
The Aquarius instrument aboard the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft was measuring global sea surface salinity (Image: NASA)

The Aquarius/Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas (SAC)-D satellite observatory, a joint project between NASA and Argentina’s Space Agency (CONAE), with participation from Brazil, Canada, France and Italy, has ended its activity after nearly four years.

The international Earth-observing mission, launched in 2011 to study the salinity of the ocean surface, has been brought to an end due to the shut down of an essential part of the power and attitude control system for the SAC-D spacecraft.

Despite this recent loss of onboard power regulation and spacecraft attitude stabilization, the Aquarius instrument had already successfully achieved its science objectives and completed its primary three-year mission in November 2014.

“The Aquarius sensor collected three years and nine months of valuable data. It was truly a pioneering effort to determine how accurately we could measure ocean salinity from space and for the first time study large and small-scale interactions... read more

Publishing Date: 24/06/2015
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Sentinel 2A on the point of being launched (Image:ESA)

Sentinel 2A, the new satellite developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus, was successfully launched from the European Spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana) on 23 June 2015 at 01:52 GMT. It separated from the stage into flight 54 minutes after the launch, its solar panel has already been deployed but it will only begin its missions in three or four months.

Sentinel 2A is the second satellite of the European Union’s Copernicus programme, weights 1.1 tonnes and was developed with a budget of 7.500 million euros, the highest for a civil Earth Observation satellite. It is specifically designed for environmental monitoring and will provide colourful high resolution imagery in 13 spectral bands.

It will allow displaying new land cover and change detection maps, disaster maps and leaf area index to chlorophyll content and other biogeophysical data. This would facilitate locating sites for refugee camps in humanitarian crises, monitoring the destruction or growth... read more

Publishing Date: 23/06/2015
Astronaut Scott Kelly will post the winning picture of the month in Instagram from the ISS

UNOOSA and NASA have launched a global social media campaign to raise awareness about the impact of the outer space on our daily lives and its importance for a sustainable development on Earth.

The #whyspacematters photography contest aims to collect pictures showing why outer space matters to our everyday life. Astronaut Scott Kelly, stationed on the International Space Station for a one-year mission, will be posting the winning photo through his Instagram account every month.

“This campaign will help to promote the use of space science and technologies in such areas as disaster risk reduction, tracking the effects of climate change and in the equality of access to education and telemedicine," stated Simonetta Di Pippo, UNOOSA Director.

To illustrate the influence of outer space for a sustainable development, UNOOSA has made available a dedicated webpage with some examples related to... read more

Publishing Date: 18/06/2015
Satellite image of the Earth (Image: NASA)

At the ongoing Paris Airshow European spacecraft company Airbus Defence and Space announced that they will produce a fleet of 900 satellites for OneWeb, a project carried out by British Channel Islands in order to enable internet access in remote areas. It will be made up of 900 small, low orbit satellites which are cheaper and faster to mass produce and have shorten latency periods than those circling further away from Earth.

The first satellites will be manufactured in the Airbus facilities in Toulouse, but full production will take place in the US. To put the constellation in orbit, Richard Branson’s Virgin Group will likely be involved. Initially only 600 out of 900 will be launched, the rest would be kept as spares.

The expected launch of the OneWeb satellite network is scheduled for 2018 and it will presumably be operational around 2020 and would need hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain in venture. The objective is to connect these satellites to small... read more

Publishing Date: 16/06/2015


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