Earth's land surface represents the most varied terrain in the whole of the Solar System, gradually transformed by geological motion, atmospheric weathering and sustained biological activity. Its evolution continues to this day, helped along by humanity: deserts expand, forests are cleared and cities grow.
Satellite instruments allow land cover to be classified on an objective global basis, and identify land cover change. They can pinpoint wilderness areas under threat from sprawling settlements, for example, or track patterns of soil erosion. And land cover classification sharpens the accuracy of climate models: pinning down the contributions of localised carbon ‘sources' and ‘sinks' for example, or the varied albedos of differing biomass or mineral surfaces.
Other types of instruments contribute more to monitoring the land surface. Radiometers such as Envisat's AATSR take the temperature of Earth's land, while radar altimetry and synthetic aperture radar interferometry build up accurate three dimensional maps of its surface contours.
21 March 2019
Billions of image pixels recorded by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission have been used to generate a high-resolution map of land-cover dynamics across Earth's landmasses. This map also depicts the month of the peak of vegetation and gives new insight into land productivity.
06 September 2018
ESA data have been used to develop the new Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Green Growth headline indicator on land-cover change.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines green growth as ‘fostering economic growth and development, while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which our well-being relies.'
Specific Topics on Land
The monitoring of soil moisture on a large scale for the purposes of hydrological modelling and water management form the major element of this application. In addition research is aimed at understanding both soil chemistry and processes.
Interferometry is one of the key techniques in the creation of digital elevation models for the mapping of large areas and in the monitoring of elevation change in areas of land subsidence or uplift.
There are an ever increasing number of applications in support of industrial development from civil engineering to oil prospecting, and in the monitoring of urban change and population mapping for planning and control purposes.
The extensive mapping of vegetation and its condition form key elements of programmes aimed at the development of national and international food policies. Whilst ongoing research studies the more detailed biophysical processes.
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