IGARSS focus on building sustainable Earth through remote sensing

IGARSS focus on building sustainable Earth through remote sensing

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Melbourne: Scientists, engineers and educators from all over the world gathered at the 33rd International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS) in Australia last month. This year’s theme ”Building a sustainable Earth through remote sensing” was selected to highlight the issues that most affect the Earth”s environment and the human impact on the planet.

Hosted annually by the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society, the event drew more than 1,300 delegates from across 66 countries to Melbourne for a week of identifying research trends, sharing updates on applied programs and discussing the latest in techniques and instruments. Dr Adam Lewis, National Earth Observation Group Leader at Geoscience Australia said a major challenge ahead for remote sensing was how to handle the much larger volumes of data that come with technology upgrades. Professor Arnold Dekker, Director of the Australian Commonwealth and Scientific Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) new Earth Observation Informatics Transformational Capability Platform (TCP) said, “worldwide, more than 400 earth observation sensors are planned for the next 15 years.” Mike Goodchild, Professor of Geography at the University of California, in his address spoke about actively involving and trusting citizen-science.

The Australian Earth Observation Coordination Group (AEOCG) called a meeting of interested parties during IGARSS. As a coordinating and sharing group for those using images collected from satellite, airborne or any other platform for any purpose in Australia, the group included professionals across private industry, government, education and non-government entities, for both natural and built environments.

Professor Yann Kerr from the Centre for the Study of the Biosphere from Space presented at the ‘Future Missions and Systems’ session. As the Principal Investigator for the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission, which was launched in 2009 as the first dedicated satellite mission for long-term monitoring of soil moisture, Professor Kerr said Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology and Monash University both rely on the data gained from the satellite for fire, flood and drought risk reduction. Kerr said he is now working on a new satellite concept, SMOS-Next, which will have applications to water resource management in Australia, specifically the Murray-Darling Basin. “SMOS-Next will allow a significant step forward from SMOS by improving the spatial resolution by a factor of ten,” he said.

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission, expected to launch in October 2014, was also discussed at the ‘Future Missions and Systems’ session. SMAP is expected to provide global measurements of soil moisture and its state, distinguishing frozen from thawed land surfaces. These measurements will then be used to further understand the processes that link the water, energy and carbon cycles, extending the capabilities of weather and climate prediction models and in doing so, enabling climate models to be brought into agreement on future trends in water resource availability.

Professor Guo Huadong, Director-General of the Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI), Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that while China now owns more than 60 satellites, the country is expecting to launch new missions with new Earth observation capabilities, including monitoring carbon dioxide exchange, earthquakes, crop measurement and much more. Professor Huadong also called for an Earth observations platform on the moon.