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 radiometers such as Envisat’s AATSR takes the temperature of Earth’s land, while radar altimetry and synthetic aperture radar interferometry build up accurate three dimensional maps of its surface contours.
28 March 2017
Discover our planet's changing climate through the eyes of satellites with Climate from Space, a new digital book for iPad and Android tablets featuring interactive maps and video interviews with top scientists.
24 March 2017
With the pair of Sentinel-2 satellites now in orbit, users are looking ahead to mapping global land cover at 10 m resolution.
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.
Related Data Types
Related (Key) Documentation
Related Research Results