Archive for the 'Earth Sciences' Category

Planet Action 2012 Annual Report


Planet Action is a non-profit initiative launched in June 2007 by Spot Image. It has been joined by ESRI as a co-founding partner very early, and other partners have also joined the initiative since. More recently, Planet Action and the UNESCO signed a cooperation agreement within the framework of the Open Initiative to support World Heritage sites.

Man-made climate change is a global issue with serious threats: this is a new challenge for our societies and communities to get fully involved with new and cooperative approaches.

It is our ambition, as a committed and responsible corporate citizen, to bring quality technologies and expertise to the non-profit community working on climate change.

The projects benefiting from Planet Action grants reflect the complexity and interactions at stake in shaping a future based on sustainability.  We are grateful to them for their work and feedback.  We also appreciate the strong relationships that help us share knowledge within the Planet Action’s community: non-profits and NGOs, technology providers (ESRI, ITT, Trimble), experts, and outreach partners.

We hope this Annual Report presents an accurate picture of our activity and our personality.

The Planet Action team




USGS EarthExplorer

USGS Earth Explorer

The USGS EarthExplorer (EE) tool provides users the ability to query, search, and order satellite images, aerial photographs, and cartographic products from several sources. In addition to data from the Landsat missions and a variety of other data providers, EE now provides access to MODIS land data products from the NASA Terra and Aqua missions, and ASTER level-1B data products over the U.S. and Territories from the NASA ASTER mission. Registered users of EE have access to more features than guest users.

EE-specific links: Launch EE | General Tutorial


GMES Land geoland2 Project: An Era Ends

After 8 years of GMES land research projects and the start of the initial GMES Services (GIO) in 2011, two important events signaled the transition from prototype development to operational implementation of land services: (1) the 8th and last “geoland forum2: in Copenhagen and (2) the final review meeting in Brussels.

The geoland2 project with 57 partners from 20 European nations developed the GMES Land Service and demonstrated an impressive portfolio consisting of 200 different products and applications. The continental and local component of geoland2 were transferred to the European Environment Agency and the global component to the JRC and implemented as part of GIO. Thus GMES Land leads – based on geoland2 results – to operational geo-information services that provide accurate, reliable and harmonised information across borders.

The 8th geoland forum took place in Copenhagen on 18th and 19th October 2012. 150 GMES Land stakeholders were invited to discuss the status and results of the GMES Land Services with the project consortium.

On 11th and 12th December 2012 the geoland2 project completed its final review meeting at the European Commission in Brussels. The project’s Executive Board presented the various results that have been achieved in the previous 4 years to the project officer and the review panel. During the two days intense meeting the team convinced the review panel that geoland2 has done a great job, in fact the European Commission was very impressed by what geoland2 has delivered.

An executive summary outlines detailed information about the geoland2 project and can be accessed here



CryoSat Hits Land

MATLAB Handle Graphics

ESA’s ice mission is now giving scientists a closer look at oceans, coastal areas, inland water bodies and even land, reaching above and beyond its original objectives.

Launched in 2010, the polar-orbiting CryoSat was developed to measure the changes in the thickness of polar sea ice, the elevation of the ice sheets that blanket Greenland and Antarctica, and mountain glaciers.

The satellite’s radar altimeter not only detects tiny variations in the height of the ice, it also measures sea level and the sea ice’s height above water to derive sea-ice thickness with an unprecedented accuracy.

At a higher precision than previous altimeters, CryoSat’s measurements of sea level are improving the quality of the model forecasts. Small, local phenomena in the ocean surface like eddies can be detected and analysed.


300 m resolution

Taking CryoSat a step further, scientists have now discovered that the altimetry readings have the potential to map sea level closer to the coast, and even greater capabilities to profile land surfaces and inland water targets such as small lakes, rivers and their intricate tributaries.

Radar altimeters have more difficulty doing this because, compared to open ocean measurements, the landscape surrounding inland water bodies is a lot more complex.

These had not been previously monitored with satisfying accuracy by conventional altimeters because the sensor footprints – about 5×5 km – were too large to detect subtle differences in the topography around small landforms.

CryoSat, however, has a resolution along its ground track of about 300 m.

In order to thoroughly investigate the possibilities offered by CryoSat over water, ESA recently began scientific exploitation projects coined ‘CryoSat+’.


Readings over Danube River delta

Scientists are reprocessing large, raw and uncompressed sets of data coming directly from CryoSat to obtain new information on oceans, inland water bodies and land.

In the example pictured above, CryoSat’s altimeter made readings over central Cuba, extending north and south into the surrounding water.

The image clearly shows the difference between the bright radar reflections from the steady water and the elevated land.

For instance, near the edges of the island, points of high radar reflection are pictured in red. This is due to the more placid waters of the bay and over coral reefs.

Examples are also pictured over the Danube delta in eastern Romania, and the land-locked Issyk Kul lake in Kyrgyzstan.


Altimeter readings over Issyk Kul

“Thanks to CryoSat being operated over some inland water targets in high resolution mode, we were able to distinctly chart the contours of a flood that occurred last March at Rio Negro in the Amazon,” said Salvatore Dinardo, working for ESA on CryoSat+.

Jérôme Benveniste, the ESA scientist who initiated the project, continued, “We were able to emphasise the unique capability to see the floodwater extent under the forest canopy, where optical sensors or even imaging radars are blocked by the trees.”

Results from the project will be unveiled to the scientific community at the Third CryoSat User Workshop to be held in Germany at the Technical University of Dresden on 12–14 March.


Monitoring Water Resources in the Mediterranean


Rice mapping

The effects of climate change, population growth and economic development in the Mediterranean are posing a threat to the water supply in the region. As part of ESA’s TIGER initiative, satellite data are supporting water management by identifying water resources.

The demand for water is growing around the Mediterranean and is especially crucial in areas that do not receive regular rainfall. This is especially true for the southernmost parts of Europe and the countries lying along the African coast and in the eastern Mediterranean Basin.

Owing to the increasing population, the demand for water is growing for drinking and irrigation, representing 70–80% of the water use in the region. To get a better grip on water management, satellites are increasingly acknowledged as indispensable tools for collecting information on available water resources and their use.

This information is also necessary for planning infrastructure, such as where to build a dam, how to divert a waterway or manage a flood event.

The ten-year TIGER initiative exploits Earth observation technologies in order to respond to the urgent need for reliable water information in Africa.

TIGER is currently collaborating with the Euro-Mediterranean Information System on Know-How in the Water Sector (EMWIS), organising water observation systems and building capacity in the Mediterranean region.

In this context, a short training session and workshop was organised in early December at ESA’s ESRIN centre in Frascati, Italy, with participants representing national water authorities and remote sensing institutions from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.


Nile encroachment

“The collaboration initiated with ESA is very promising,” said Eric Mino, manager of EMWIS Technical Unit.

“Earth observation can not only increase knowledge on the water cycle and irrigation efficiency at river basin level, but also provides comparable, independent and objective information across the boundaries.

“This is necessary for all international water initiatives in the Mediterranean region, in particular for the projects initiated by the Union for the Mediterranean.”

In Egypt, satellite data are being used for monitoring rice fields – a crop that requires a significant amount of water and is mainly grown in the Nile Delta. Satellite observation on land cover maps combined with indicators on the vegetation status and land-surface temperature help to improve crop irrigation management.

Between Egypt’s arid climate and high water consumption, it is important to keep an eye on water quantity, as well as quality. To estimate the quantity lost by evaporation, information on land-surface temperature is used based on satellite data.

Satellite imagery is also used to observe wetland environments and monitor changes in coastlines and river banks, such as the Nile.

High-resolution imagery from the upcoming Sentinel-2 mission, being developed under Europe’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme, is expected to improve crop mapping and support water management in the Mediterranean Basin.


Researchers Snow-Covered Desert


Snow-covered deserts are rare, but that’s exactly what the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite observed as it passed over the Taklimakan Desert in western China on Jan. 2, 2013. Snow has covered much of the desert since a storm blew through the area on Dec. 26. The day after the storm, Chinese Central Television (CNTV) reported that the Xinjian Uygyr autonomous region was one of the areas hardest hit.

The Taklimakan is one of the world’s largest—and hottest—sandy deserts. Water flowing into the Tarim Basin has no outlet, so over the years, sediments have steadily accumulated. In parts of the desert, sand can pile up to 300 meters (roughly 1,000 feet) high. The mountains that enclose the sea of sand—the Tien Shan in the north and the Kunlun Shan in the south—were also covered with what appeared to be a significantly thicker layer of snow in January 2013.


EU launches Framework Contract for Experts in Energy, Transport, Environment, Agriculture, ICT, Life Sciences and others


The European Union is launching a Framework Contract for experts in several areas, including Energy, Transport, Environment, Agriculture, ICT, Science and Technology and Life Sciences. Through the framework contract, expertise shall be provided in the form of briefings, studies, the organisation of events, the delivery of communication services, and ad hoc services.

Studies produced should be concise and easily accessible, reflecting the specific needs identified in the individual specifications for each assignment. The contractor’s responsibility will mainly be to analyse the impact of scientific and technological development, describe approaches to solving technology-related problem areas and identify policy options for action in a manner helpful to client’s role.

The service providers are expected to be able to operate across the scientific disciplines and to present complex facts in a manner which is easily understood by a layperson. The service providers bear sole scientific responsibility for the results of their work. All work involved in the assessment of scientific and technological options is to be carried out independently and in a transparent way.

Additional services, such as possible attendance at client meetings and presentations by lead experts, or the organisation of workshops, exhibitions or other events internally or externally, and information dissemination services are included.

Expertise is required in the following thematic areas:

  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Environment (including climate change)
  • ICT and information society
  • Nanoscale science and technology (including industrial applications)
  • Life sciences for human well-being
  • Agriculture, food and biotechnology
  • Science, technology and innovation policy
  • Safety and security technologies.

The total contract duration is 4 years (48 months). The total consulting budget is estimated at EUR 650,000 annually for each field, corresponding to an average of € 72,000 per project and a total of EUR 2,990,000 over the project lifetime, including added services.

Deadline: 8 March 2013


Tenure-track positions at the Department of Geography and Geology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington

The Department of Geography and Geology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington invites applications for three tenure-track, assistant professor positions to begin August 2013:

  • Applied Geography/Geospatial Analysis – We seek an individual who applies geospatial techniques to geographic problems at the interface of nature and society, such as natural hazards, natural resources, coastal processes, global change studies, or urban/rural development,  (Contact: Dr. Joanne Halls [] ),
  • Landscape Dynamics/Active Tectonics – We seek an individual with expertise in the interactions between tectonics, climate, and landscape evolution using a field-based, quantitative, GIS/Remote-sensing approaches (Contact: Dr. Patricia Kelley, and
  • Marine Geology/Paleoceanography – We seek an individual who combines expertise in field-based and shipboard collection techniques with quantitative analysis of paleoenvironmental proxy records from ocean archives  (Contact: Dr. Richard Laws [] .

The successful candidates will be dynamic scientists with the potential to demonstrate excellence in teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, to develop an externally funded research program, and to recruit and mentor graduate students.

Additional information on each position, on UNCW, and on the Department of Geography and Geology is given at

To apply, complete the online application at A letter of application, brief statements of teaching and research interests, a curriculum vitae, unofficial copies of graduate transcripts, and contact information, including e-mail addresses, for three professional references should be uploaded as MS Word or PDF files.

For questions concerning the online application process contact Ms. Cathy Morris, [], (910) 962-3736. Priority consideration will be given to applications received by January 4, 2013, but applications will be accepted until each position is filled.

UNCW actively fosters a diverse and inclusive working and learning environment and is an equal opportunity employer. Qualified men and women from all racial, ethnic, or other minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply.


30 years time series of Global LAI, FAPAR, FCover now available


The Core Mapping Service BioPar of the geoland2 project announces the availability of 30 years time series of global LAI, FAPAR and FCover made of:

  • from 1981 to 2000, LAI, FAPAR and FCover are derived from NOAA/AVHRR Long Term Data Record (LTRD) dataset provided by NASA and the University of Maryland. They cover the globe at 0.05° resolution.
  • from 1999 to the present, LAI, FAPAR and FCover are derived from SPOT/VGT data at 1km resolution.

The innovative methodology set-up by INRA allows that both datasets are fully compatible. The NOAA/AVHRR products have been generated by CNES, and the SPOT/VGT products are produced by VITO.

All these products can be discovered and ordered freely through the geoland2 web portal following the link The Algorithmic Theoretical Basis Documents, and the Product User Manuals are also available. It is also possible to subscribe to receive the future products (from SPOT/VGT) as soon as they are generated (

They were all developed in the framework of the FP7/geoland2 project (, the precursor project of the GMES Land service.


Call for abstracts: 8th International Symposium on Digital Earth 2013 (ISDE 2013) “Transforming Knowledge into Sustainable Practice”

The 8th International Symposium on Digital Earth 2013 (ISDE 2013) will be held in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia from 26th – 29th August 2013. The theme “Transforming Knowledge into Sustainable Practice” aims to enable digital earth modeler and experts in the field of geospatial science and technology to provide a brand new opportunity to share their ideas and insights on how we share knowledge and act together globally.

About the Symposium

This symposium is a series of symposia, which is an important academic event of The International Society for Digital Earth. To date, the series of ISDE was successfully convened in China (1999), Canada (2001), the Czech Republic (2003), Japan (2005), the United States (2007), China (2009) and Australia (2011). The 8th International Symposium on Digital Earth 2013 with the theme “Transforming Knowledge into Sustainable Practice” aims to enable digital earth modeler and experts in the field of geospatial science and technology to provide a brand new opportunity to share their ideas and insights on how we share knowledge and act together globally.

Symposium topics

If you are having a different sub-theme other than listed below, please email us your sub-theme to ISDE Symposium Secretariat at

  • Digital Earth Vision and Innovation
  • Earth Observation Technologies
  • ICT Technologies (including Spatial Data Infrastructures)
  • Empowering the Community, Engaging Society
  • Digital City and Green Cities
  • Digital Heritage
  • Population Growth and Infrastructure Development
  • Adapting to Global and Climate Change
  • Empowering the Community
  • Land and Water Management
  • Early Warning, Emergency Management and National Security
  • Mining, Energy and Resources Development
  • Natural Resource Management and Agriculture
  • Health and Biodiversity
  • Marine and Coastal Environment

 Important Dates

Date Item
15 September 2012 Call for Abstracts Open
31 January 2013 Early Bird Registration Opens
02 February 2013 Abstract Submission Deadline
28 February 2013 Notification of Abstract Acceptance
30 June 2013 Full Paper Submission
30June 2013 Early bird registration Ends
01 July 2013 Late Registration Opens
26 – 29 August 2013 8th ISDE Symposium



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