UN-SPIDER's programme coordinator, Luc St-Pierre, speaking at the international workshop

The UN-SPIDER Beijing Office in cooperation with the National Geomatics Center of China (NGCC), the Chinese National Committee for Future Earth (CNC-FE), the UN Project Management Office (National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation - NASG) and LIESMARS - Wuhan University co-organized the "International Workshop on Supporting Future Earth with Global Geo-information" from 9 to 10 June, Beijing, China.

UN-SPIDER contributed to the session "Disaster Risk Reduction and Global Geo-information" to support sustainable development and Future Earth initiative with the effort of establishing reliable global geo-information. The session also aimed to promote integration of Earth observation and geo-information technologies in implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: 2015-2030, which is the theme of upcoming UN-SPIDER Conference in Beijing to take place in September.

Future Earth... read more

Publishing Date: 15/06/2015
The agreement was signed during the 58th session of COPUOS in Vienna (Image: UNOOSA)

On the sidelines of the 58th session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in Vienna, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and Israel signed an agreement on cooperation in space-related issues on Friday, 12 June 2015. The Israel Space Agency will implement the agreement on behalf of the Israeli Government.

The agreement includes the contribution to the advancement of space-related research within the international community recognizing that space has become a dominant factor in technological, economic and cultural development, holding great potential to improve the lives of mankind globally, in such fields as medicine, disaster management, satellite technology, environment, geographical navigation and much more.

The two parties confirmed that they aim at further consolidating and developing their cooperation in order to effectively achieve their common objectives, including for the purpose of establishing mechanisms to... read more

Publishing Date: 15/06/2015
Temperature forecasts under different greenhouse emission scenarios.(Image: Wikipedia)

NASA has released a dataset displaying how temperatures and precipitations might change by the year 2100 taking into account various greenhouse gas emission scenarios. This 25-km high resolution data is of free access to the public and shows estimated maximum and minimum temperatures as well as precipitations on a daily basis and at a local and global scale from 1950 to 2100 under two different greenhouse gas emission scenarios: a “business as usual” scenario based on current trends and an “extreme case” with huge carbon dioxide increases. These simulations were carried out by the international Fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project.

These maps could contribute to the improvement of climate risk evaluations to get a better knowledge of local and global impacts and risks, such as severe drought, floods, heat waves and losses in agriculture productivity.

This dataset is the newest product by the big-data platform NASA Earth Exchange (NEX), located in NASA’s... read more

Publishing Date: 11/06/2015
“Disaster Reporting” app is now freely available in Google Play (Image: ICIMOD)

“Disaster Reporting” is a new android application launched by UN-SPIDER's Nepal Regional Support Office ICIMOD and Kathmandu University, Nepal, with the aim of easing relief processes of disaster events through contributive reports of the users.

The users can select the type of disaster event and inform about the impact and damages caused, the number of people injured or the relief requirements on the field, among others. Users’ reports allow creating and updating an interactive and freely accessible map, which helps better understanding and assessing the situation.

“The app can be used by government and nongovernmental organizations for field data collection for long-term planning for rebuilding and reconstruction, disaster assessment, relief distribution and overall disaster management,” said Shashish Maharjan, the main coordinator of the application development.

The application was developed by the Geospatial Lab, Department of Civil and Geomatics... read more

Publishing Date: 10/06/2015
Global coverage satellites to monitor the quality of inland and coastal waters through the new EOMAP service (Image: NASA)

The first harmonized and high-resolution monitoring service for inland and coastal waters has been launched providing water quality information directly accessible online through the eoApp web application.

This new service is offered by the provider of aquatic remote sensing solutions EOMAP GmbH & Co. KG, which is easing, among others, the identification of long-term trends and the understanding of emerging problems in near real time over large areas containing numerous water bodies.

Turbidity, chlorophyll concentrations and organic/inorganic components are some of the water quality parameters that can be generated for any location worldwide and presented in digital map form. The satellites used are already operating with global coverage allowing the new EOMAP service to implement the inland water quality monitoring for the whole globe, covering from local to continental scales.  

"Our remote sensing-based service sets the new standard for monitoring inland... read more

Publishing Date: 09/06/2015
Comparing surface deformation data through Envisat and Sentinel-1A data over Bay of Naples in Italy (Image: ESA)

The remote sensing technique to map ground deformation is being improved thanks to scientific work based on frequent observations from the Sentinel-1A radar satellite data.

The one-year old satellite data has been compared with those from the ERS and Envisat, former satellite radar missions. This work has enabled researchers of Italy’s Institute for Electromagnetic Sensing of the Environment (IREA-CNR) to show a drastic improvement in mapping surface deformation and to draw a new path for earthquake and volcano monitoring.

“To achieve this, the scientists used the Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar, or InSAR, technique. This involves combining two or more radar images acquired at different times. If something on the ground has changed between the acquisitions, the terrain deformation is displayed as a continuous sequence of coloured stripes called interference fringes, or an ‘interferogram’,” explains the European Space Agency on their website.

The mean... read more

Publishing Date: 09/06/2015
Launch of U.S.-French oceanography satellite Jason 3 postponed due to contamination (Image: NOAA)

The launch of the Jason 3, a U.S.-French oceanography satellite, has been postponed due to a discovered contamination in one of the spacecraft’s thrusters at its factory in France.

The mission was scheduled to be launched July 22 from California but NOAA announced the slip on Tuesday, June 2, and for the moment officials did not set a new launch date. They are waiting for the outcome of the thruster review taking place at its Thales Alenia Space factory in Cannes, France.

NOAA announced in a statement: “The launch of the Jason 3 mission will not occur July 22, as announced previously. During spacecraft testing, engineers located contamination in one of the four thrusters on the spacecraft. The problem thruster has been replaced. An investigation into the contamination will continue during the next two weeks, as the new thruster is tested.”

Through extend space-based measurements of sea levels and wave height, Jason 3 will be used to monitor global sea level... read more

Publishing Date: 08/06/2015
Pyxis provide precise weather forecasts (Image: US NOAA)

The satellite developer PlanetiQ introduced its new GPS technology called Pyxis which will make predictions better than before. The satellite-based weather instrument includes sensors that are designed to penetrate storm clouds and generate data that will significantly improve weather forecasting.

Pyxis will monitor GPS signals in the atmosphere and then translate them in precise measurements of global temperature, pressure and weather vapor. With this mode of operation the new instrument may also improve climate monitoring, and does it all at less cost than existing satellite weather systems, as PlanetiQ announced.

According to the satellite developer, Pyxis will be incorporated into what... read more

Publishing Date: 05/06/2015

A new UN-SPIDER newsletter is now available. The latest issue focuses on the use of Earth observation for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. 2015 is a milestone year for the United Nations. Not only is the organization celebrating its 70 years of existence, the year is also the starting point for major agreements and frameworks that will shape global sustainable development in the years to come. Nations worldwide will jointly embark on new paths to end poverty, promote prosperity and well-being for all, protect the environment, address climate change and reduce disaster risks.

More specifically, the newsletter looks at space technologies for the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the new Paris climate change agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals to be launched in September of this year.

Furthermore, this issue... read more

Publishing Date: 04/06/2015
Screenshot from OpenArialMap

The OpenAerialMap project was started by Humanitarian Open Street Map earlier this year with the goal to improve rapid access to aerial imagery for disaster mapping and humanitarian response. Now, a beta version was released.

Delivering useful imagery to decision makers, mappers and responders still needs its time, like it was illustrated during the recent Nepal earthquake. Now, the OpenAerialMap offers users a simple interface to find, browse, filter and review available data.

Additional components that will allow users to upload and share image data are being designed and will be released soon. This means that anyone from traditional satellite image providers to individual drone mappers will be able to easily share imagery for humanitarian mapping.

The entire system is built using open source software and designed to dynamically scale in performance as the catalog grows with millions of images.

The current image catalog is still in beta but gives an... read more

Publishing Date: 03/06/2015
The IWG-SEM is a voluntary group of organizations involved in satellite based emergency mapping which supports disaster response

UNOOSA took up the annually rotating position of official Chair of the International Working Group on Satellite based Emergency Mapping (IWG-SEM) at the Group's meeting today in Bonn, Germany.

The IWG-SEM is a voluntary group of organizations involved in satellite based emergency mapping which supports disaster response by improving international cooperation in such mapping activities. The group was founded to improve cooperation, communication and professional standards among the global network of satellite based emergency mapping providers. This becomes especially important for the large-scale response in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes such as in Haiti in 2010 or last month in Nepal.

UNOOSA will take over as Chair from the German Aerospace Center (DLR). In this role, UNOOSA is aiming to promote further collaboration among the Group's members, and is looking to broaden its membership. In the coming year UNOOSA also wants to continue working on the Group's... read more

Publishing Date: 29/05/2015
130 international experts convened in Bonn to discuss the benefits of Earth observation for sustainable development (Image: DLR/Timm Bourry)

On 28 May 2015, UNOOSA and its co-organizers, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), successfully concluded the three day United Nations/Germany International Conference on Earth observation in Bonn, Germany. The conference was kindly supported by Secure World Foundation, the City of Bonn and Digital Globe.

Under the theme of "Global Solutions for the Challenges of Sustainable Development in Societies at Risk", approximately 120 experts and participants from more than 35 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean convened in Bonn to discuss the benefits of Earth observation for sustainable development, including climate change and disaster risk reduction. Specifically, the participants discussed how Earth observation can feed into the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2015 climate change agreement. The overall aim is to enable... read more

Publishing Date: 29/05/2015
UNOOSA director Simonetta Di Pippo highlighted the role of satellite data in disaster risk reduction and sustainable development.

The United Nations/Germany International Conference on Earth Observation: Global Solutions for the Challenges of Sustainable Development in Societies at Risk was opening today in Bonn, Germany. The three-day event is bringing together 130 experts and participants from more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean to discuss the benefits of Earth Observation for sustainable development. The issues discussed include the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2015 climate change agreement. The conference is organized jointly by UNOOSA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

The conference was opened by Juan Carlos Villagran, Head of Office of the UNOOSA/UN-SPIDER Bonn Office, Margitta Wülker-Mirbach, Head of Division at BMWi, and Lord Mayor of the City of Bonn, Jürgen Nimptsch.

In her keynote speech, UNOOSA's director... read more

Publishing Date: 26/05/2015
A strong health sector is needed to improve people's resilience to disasters (Image: FEMA/Andrea Booher)

The need of a close relation between disaster risk reduction and the health sector has been highlighted at the 68th World Health Assembly on the basis of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

“The Sendai Framework is an opportunity for countries to shift their focus from managing disasters to managing risks which requires a better understanding of risk in all its dimensions of vulnerability and exposure, a key priority for disaster risk reduction over the next fifteen years. […] The health status of disaster-exposed populations is central to the achievement of the overall goal of the Framework of achieving a substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health,” stated Ms. Chadia Wannous, UNISDR’s health focal point.

She stressed the importance of building stronger cooperation between health authorities and relevant stakeholders to improve the capacity for disaster risk management for health, to implement... read more

Publishing Date: 22/05/2015
High-resolution global soil moisture map from SMAP (Image: NASA)

NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission has begun science operations. SMAP investigates global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed. This information help scientist understand links among Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles. In addition, map global soil moisture can help to monitor and predict natural hazards like floods and droughts.

"Fourteen years after the concept for a NASA mission to map global soil moisture was first proposed, SMAP now has formally transitioned to routine science operations," said Kent Kellogg, SMAP project manager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "SMAP's science team can now begin the important task of calibrating the observatory's science data products to ensure SMAP is meeting its requirements for measurement accuracy."

SMAP was launched on 31 January this year to orbit. Together, SMAP's two... read more

Publishing Date: 20/05/2015
The first wave of January 2010 El Nino storms (Image: USNRL)

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology predicted that at the end of this year a strong El Nino effect can bring extreme weather around the world. Computer models based on satellite and meteorological observation data made this prediction.

An El Nino comes along about every two to seven years as part of a natural cycle. It is a warming of the Pacific Ocean as part of a complex cycle linking atmosphere and ocean.

To predict an El Nino scientist designed complex computer models that are fed with satellite and meteorological observation data as well as information about the temperature, currents and winds in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Once El Nino has started, models can predict how it might develop over the next six to nine months, with a reasonable level of accuracy.

According to BBC News El Nino is still in its early stages. In the summer it would become clear how strong it is going to be: "This is a... read more

Publishing Date: 18/05/2015
Decades of satellite images show: Earth is a cloudy place (Image: NASA)

Satellite-based Earth observation as well as images taken by astronauts show that Earth views from space are dominated by clouds. A recent study by NASA has looked at a decade of imagery and estimates that about 67 percent of Earth’s surface is typically covered by clouds.

NASA writes: "Earth’s cloudy nature is unmistakable in this global cloud fraction map, based on data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite. While MODIS collects enough data to make a new global map of cloudiness every day, this version of the map shows an average of all of the satellite’s cloud observations between July 2002 and April 2015. Colors range from dark blue (no clouds) to light blue (some clouds) to white (frequent clouds)."

Publishing Date: 15/05/2015
Flood affected areas will suffer under the loss of rain fall satellites (Image: United States Marine Corps)

Currently, there are 10 satellites dedicated to monitoring rainfall, but soon this number is likely to fall: four satellites have already passed their design life and others will follow soon. This will strongly affect flood management globally, shows a study published at Environmental Research Letter.

Space-based rainfall observation give high-value opportunities for globally coordinated data services regarding rainfall and resulted floods. Rainfall satellite data provides a good understanding of high-intensity events like monsoon rains, meaning that flood warnings could be communicated and emergency planning swung into action: "Rainfall data is critical for flood modellers to correctly predict the timing and intensity of events," said Patrick Reed from Cornell University, US. "For example, the rainfall data can be used by reservoir... read more

Publishing Date: 08/05/2015
The new Cube+ makes it easier evaluate satellite imagery (Image: NASA)

Ecometrica announced the delivery of the new Cube+. The combination of software and customised cloud computing hardware allows sequential images taken by satellites to be built up layer upon layer, quickly and efficiently, to provide a much more detailed, and in-depth answers to complex queries about changes to agriculture, forests, coasts and urban areas.

The new technology allows government departments and firms to analyse complex data from satellites without the need for supercomputers for the first time. I will provide a more powerful service than those currently available using supercomputers, at around a tenth of the cost.

"This new Ecometrica technology component will allow businesses to efficiently process complex time-space data queries across the globe. It brings complex information retrieval tasks on spatial data that would previously have required supercomputers within the reach of conventional commercial cloud services”,... read more

Publishing Date: 08/05/2015
Results from the AlpTomoSAR field campaign in Austria supporting the development of Saocom-CS (Image: ESA)

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Argeninian Space Agency (CONAE) are collaborating to make 3D observations from space using two radar satellites in tandem.

ESA reported: “Following an offer from the Argentinian space agency, Conae, it is one of first ‘small satellite’ concepts to be studied by ESA. The idea is to build a companion satellite for Conae’s Saocom-1b, which is envisaged for launch in 2018–19 and use the satellites together. Saocom-1b will carry an L-band synthetic aperture radar. Saocom-CS would fly in formation with Saocom-1b, capturing its radar echoes as they are reflected from Earth’s surface.”

“These results have the potential to open up completely new cryospheric applications for the mission. They also nicely illustrate the unexplored possibilities offered by radar missions based on two or more... read more

Publishing Date: 30/04/2015
Beidou's coverage now, by 2020 it will expand to worldwide coverage (Image: NASA)

The Beidou satellite navigation system will be fully operational worldwide by 2020, said Li Jian, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The system has been successfully tested in the general aviation sector, which includes all civil aviation operations other than scheduled air services, as well as by general aircraft including helicopters and private jets.

"We are promoting the Beidou system up to the standards of International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO], and will gradually apply it to carriers," Li said

Publishing Date: 29/04/2015
The Land-Potential Knowledge System Application was launched at RCMRD (Image: RCMRD)

The Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKS) Project released two mobile applications launched at the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Nairobi on 22 April 2015 - one of UN-SPIDER's Regional Support Offices in Africa.

After one and a half years of design, development and testing, two of the LandPKS ( mobile applications (LandInfo & LandCover) can now be accessed on Google Play. These innovative mobile data collection and analysis tools support local land management and land use planning to optimize food security, land restoration, climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation programmes.


LandInfo allows users to enter data about soil texture, topography and easily observable soil properties. It provides free Cloud... read more

Publishing Date: 28/04/2015
WorldDEM is based on data acquired by the high-resolution radar satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X (Image: DLR)

Airbus Defence and Space has officially launched its Digital Terrain Model (DTM) based on WorldDEM which is now commercially available. This highly accurate standardized representation of bare Earth elevation can be made available for any point on the globe, and with that addition Airbus Defence and Space can provide both surface as well as terrain elevation information. With that WorldDEM also provides the first global, single-source, high-precision Digital Surface Model and has established a new standard of global elevation models.

According to Airbus Defence and Space the unrivalled quality of the original WorldDEM product combined with a sophisticated editing process guarantees highly precise and consistent terrain information. Furthermore it offers an excellent foundation layer for a wide... read more

Publishing Date: 27/04/2015
Space-based monitoring helps track changes on large scales (Image: NASA)

Based on the findings of a scientific review of the draft SDGs, the experts have presented in the International weekly journal of science, Nature, five main priorities they recommend the scientific community to follow. These are: Devise metrics, establish monitoring mechanisms, evaluate progress, enhance infrastructure and standardize and verify data.

Within the priority of enhancing infrastructure, Earth observation and space-based monitoring play an important role. Together with on-the-ground observation, they could help track changes on large scales in natural-resource availability, landscape patterns and management, and social structure.

The authors also emphasize on the importance of data gathering using smart phones and miniature sensors and of free access to image processing, simulation and decision-making tools.

“The ICSU should work with international bodies such as the World Meteorological Organization, the UN Educational, Scientific and... read more

Publishing Date: 27/04/2015
Moving out on Landsat 9 is a high priority for NASA and USGS (Image: NASA)

NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have started work on Landsat 9, planned to launch in 2023, to continue the observing programme of Earth’s land cover. Since 1972 one of the eight satellites in the Landsat program has photographed the entire Earth every 16 days and provide accurate measurements of Earth’s surface.  

With this big data, derived from decades of observations, scientists can for example tease out changes in ecosystems like deforestation in South America, the effects of climate change and many other activities that alter the landscape. According to NASA the programme’s open archive also helps fire fighters to assess the severity of wildfires or scientist to map the retreat of mountain glaciers.

“Moving out on Landsat 9 is a high priority for NASA and USGS as part of a sustainable land imaging program that will serve the nation into... read more

Publishing Date: 24/04/2015


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