African Association of
Remote Sensing of the Environment


All the latest news on AARSE and remote sensing.
  • 10 May 2016 8:16 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Copernicus

    On 28 January 2016 the Sentinel-2A satellite captured central western Namibia, a colourful and diverse landscape of an area surrounding the Namib Naukluft Park.


    It includes the world’s oldest desert – and the Naukluft Mountain range, which is also the largest game park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world.


    The surface water of Namibia’s coast is relatively cold, so that moist air moving in with westerly winds cools and falls as rain before it reaches the coast, allowing only fog to reach inland. The fog enables life in this region for animals and insects.


    Sand dunes are represented by the burnt orange colour in the image, coming from the iron in the sand that is oxidised, developing this rusty-metal colour over time. It becomes brighter as the dune ages, as is clearly visible along the middle of this natural-colour image.


    The top-left part of the image is the Kuiseb River bordered on one side by some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, and on the other by barren rock.


    The top-right corner of the image is cut by the C14 Highway and to its right there is a rock formation with a ridgeline, with water flowing along both sides, giving life to vegetation.


    The Tsondab River is seen in the bottom of the image. The riverbed hits the colossal sand dunes, and appears bright white from the salt and mineral formations remaining after its water evaporates.


    The image comes from the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite, that has been in orbit since June 2015, providing data on vegetation health, among other applications.

    Original article

  • 10 May 2016 8:12 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)



    Researchers from the University of Leicester will be travelling to Kenya from 25 - 29 April to kick off a new satellite project that aims to monitor the world's forests in near real-time.

    The researchers hope that it will help forest land owners and national agencies to protect biodiversity and reduce climate change through the rapid detection of forest cover changes arising from unsustainable utilisation practices.

    The project is supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

    The University of Leicester is internationally renowned for its Space and Earth Observation research. The team travelling to Kenya includes Professor Heiko Balzter, Director of the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research at the University of Leicester, together with Dr Pedro Rodríguez Veiga and Dr Ciaran Robb from the University's Department of Geography and Dr Maggy Heintz from the Research and Enterprise Division.

    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change includes an international initiative on 'Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation' (REDD+) whose aim include protection of carbon stocks and biodiversity in threatened ecosystems around the world. This way, carbon stays in the forest and is not released to the air, where it could lead to further global warming.

    One of the main constraints for the successful implementation of REDD+ that has been identified by policy makers, investors, financiers and scientists is the need for robust and objective Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) systems.

    It has been recognised that satellite technology is the most feasible way to regularly monitor the world's forests in a timely fashion.

    Kenya has recently set out an ambitious climate change action plan and within the context of REDD+. The University of Leicester is working with the Ministry for Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities, Kenya Forest Service and a Kenyan company Ukall Ltd to develop a prototype for a near-real-time forest cover change, monitoring service from Sentinel-1 and 2 satellite data. The service will use national forest definitions and is delivered directly in an easily accessible reporting format via a smartphone app to community forestry associations and the Kenya Forest Service.

    This will help Kenya in its REDD+ readiness efforts and demonstrate the value of satellite enabled forest monitoring and its application via mobile phone app development.

    Professor Balzter said: "After the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, tropical deforestation is the second largest contributor to global climate change. We will focus the initial prototype of our monitoring system at the scale of a national forest reserve in Kenya and make sure that community forestry associations and local communities also have access to the information.

    "Our aspiration is to support participatory forest management strategies to enable Kenya to manage its forests more sustainably and achieve its national forest cover target of minimum 10% by 2030. Our research has a huge potential impact if it contributes to Kenya's efforts to take up more carbon from the air and store it in the form of forest biomass.

    "The prototype will allow the Kenya Forest Service and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to have timely information on deforestation and forest degradation and have the means to establish a robust and objective Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system based on cutting-edge technology."

    During the visit the University of Leicester, together with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), will organise a workshop to be hosted by KFS in Nairobi. Also participating will be our Kenyan based Partner, UKALL Limited, a leading mobile app design and development company, to be represented by their lead developer and CEO Catherine Kiguru and their Executive Chairman, Paul Rees.

    The objectives of the workshop are to engage interested parties in a dialogue and discuss forest monitoring user requirements, satellite forest monitoring service development, data availability, reporting format and agree on a forest test site to test the prototype.

    Apart from the workshop, a series of meetings with a variety of stakeholders including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis and the Kenya Wildlife Service is planned while in Nairobi.

    This visit is a follow-up from an initial stakeholders engagement conducted by Professor Balzter and William Wells (Research and Enterprise Division at the University of Leicester) in October 2015, enabled by a NERC pathfinder grant aimed at conducting a market assessment for a global near-real-time deforestation warning service from satellite data, based on the research results from a previous NERC CORSAR grant.


    Original article

  • 10 May 2016 8:06 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: AFK Insider

    With the help of agricultural drones, Africa can leapfrog into the quickly advancing area of precision agriculture — just as African mobile companies bypassed traditional fixed line infrastructure to create an innovative mobile finance system, says Quan Le.

    Le is managing director of GMX Agri, an Africa-focused agriculture adviser, developer and operator that recently launched a drone-based farming application service.

    There’s limited access to roads, electricity and clean water in a sparsely populated area about 275 miles from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja — but the land is ideal for growing rice.

    Local livelihoods are based on small-scale agriculture — sorghum, rice and beans during the rainy season, and tomatoes during the dry season using pump-fed irrigation.

    There, about 75 kilometers (47 miles) from the town New Bussa, a 3,000-hectare, irrigated rice farm is being planned on land that was acquired in a long term lease from the local government’s irrigation authority, ICTUpdate reported.

    London based GMX Consultancy traveled to Nigeria to survey and map 7,500 hectares in preparation for the irrigation infrastructure for the rice fields.

    They brought along a fixed-wing drone imported from the U.S. A manned aircraft could have done the job, but it would have cost a lot more, Le said.

    During a 55-minute flight, the drone took overlapping photos of nearly 300 hectares of the Nigerian land. Able to fly for four hours a day, the drone allowed the GMX team to map about 1,000 hectares a day. That is fast, especially if there’s harsh terrain and high temperatures to make working conditions challenging.

    It would have taken a professional surveyor working on foot about 20 days to cover the same area, said Le, managing director of GMX Agri, in a guest column in ICTupdate. An Africa-focused agriculture adviser, developer and operator, GMX recently launched growmoreX, a drone-based farming application service. The company collaborates with drone operators in Africa.

    The local emir, the village chief and a military airport located about 100 kilometers from the project site signed off on plans to use a drone. Local authorities welcomed the new technology, Le said. There was only one condition: the emir insisted on a flyover of his village so residents could see the drone and look at the photos it took.

    The village flyover had an unexpected result. For the first time the team could establish how many houses are in the village, enabling researchers to better estimate the size of the population. This is important because the research team is planning to hire local labor to build and operate the rice farm, Le said.

    Using the drone, researchers needed to create a map at a scale that would help inform the best layout of the paddy fields, irrigation and drainage systems.

    Water is the deciding factor in Africa’s rice self-sufficiency, Le said. Most African rice cultivation is rain-fed and lack of irrigation infrastructure is a major obstacle to increase rice production on the continent. Most of the existing systems are poorly designed, built, and maintained.


    Based on limited information from previous site visits, the GMX team was expecting to lay out the rice fields as large, rectangular basins. Large earth-moving and farming machinery would be needed to build and cultivate those basins. Paddy fields for rice cultivation need careful water management — water levels impact weed and nutrient distribution. This meant that for every 100 meters, half a meter of soil at the top of the field would have to be removed to raise its lower end during the leveling process.

    The drone survey proved the hypothesis wrong. Although parts of the project site were flat, most of the terrain was undulating landscape.

    Researchers had to radically change their design away from large rectangular basins and towards long, narrow fields that would follow the terrain. This change meant that a very different irrigation system design was necessary.

    By using data from drone technology, agricultural planners can now more easily avoid incorrect infrastructural planning, Le said. This information also makes it easier to buy the right machinery and avoid unnecessary large upfront investments that can break a project if they are improperly planned.

    Drone technology can potentially accelerate planning, design and construction of Africa’s irrigation infrastructure, according to Le. This project showed it can provide agriculturists with a cost-effective method of irrigation infrastructure planning.

    After the farm planning stage, drones could be useful for farmers to estimate more accurately how much fertilizer and planting materials they will need during the growing season. Once crops have been planted, drones equipped with special sensors can monitor their growth.

    Original article

  • 07 Apr 2016 2:14 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Mining Weekly

    Acid mine drainage (AMD) has become a major environmental problem associated with mining in South Africa, affecting not only gold mines but also coal mines, says Council for Geoscience (CGS) geophysicist Janine Cole

    She explains that identifying and mapping areas of mine pollution on the ground is a time-consuming and expensive activity, and, therefore, it is desirable to find ways of narrowing down the areas where fieldwork can be focused.

    Cole says that this will assist in improving the efficiency of pollution studies. She notes that, in a recent study of AMD-related pollution in the Mpumalanga coalfields undertaken by the CGS, multispectral and hyperspectral results were compared to determine whether spectral resolution and the range of multispectral data were sufficient to detect mine pollution, as well as whether hyperspectral data was essential in these type of studies.

    The multispectral datasets that were used in this study included advanced spaceborne thermal emissions and reflection radiometer (Aster), RapidEye, Worldview-2 and Landsat 8 satellite imagery. “Aster was selected because it has the most bands in the shortwave-infrared range and is widely used in geological applications. It is also not very expensive,” Cole highlights.

    She adds that RapidEye and Worldview-2 satellites cover the range of wavelengths that characterise vegetation, and that their spatial resolution made them well suited for this part of the study. Further, Cole notes that Landsat 8 was used because it is freely available.

    She points out that direct and indirect approaches of identifying AMD-related minerals from remote sensing data were also investigated. “It was possible to detect precipitated secondary iron-bearing minerals directly by mapping their spectral signatures, while changes in vegetation were likely to give an indirect indication of pollution.”

    Cole remarks that hyperspectral data collected over two pilot areas were classified into power of hydrogen (pH) levels and provided an effective visualisation of possible AMD. However, she comments that, owing to the limited number of bands in the multispectral datasets, the same classification method could not be applied to them and more traditional methods, such as band ratios, spectral angle mapping, matched filtering and linear spectral unmixing, had to be used.

    “These techniques yielded limited success and, in many instances, vegetation was classified as AMD minerals. Since wetlands could contain AMD, vegetation was not masked but was noted.” Additionally, Cole says that the ground verification targets were selected from the hyperspectral and multispectral data and showed about a 50% success rate.

    She states that, although all the datasets were used to select target areas, the hyperspectral results definitely narrowed down the target areas and improved the success rate. Cole emphasises that the RapidEye was “very useful” for the detection of unhealthy vegetation, whereas Aster yielded the best results for the AMD mineral classifications.

    Further, she points out that digital elevation models were derived from the active remote sensing technology, light detection and ranging (Lidar) data, which were collected over the two study areas. These areas were analysed to delineate possible sinkholes and channels that could form conduits for pollution from mining areas and possible sinkholes. For both areas, many of the sites where AMD precipitation was identified from the hyperspectral and multispectral data were located at, or close to, the ends of some of these channels.

    Cole points out that the study highlighted that, although the limited band coverage and resolution of multispectral data severely affects the results of such analyses, using the results in conjunction with other criteria, such as water flow analyses and proximity to hazards would improve the results. She says that if Lidar data is not available, digital elevation model data can still provide a sense of water flow and surface drainage and, therefore, may also assist in constraining the results.

    Cole notes that the percentage of false positives when using only multispectral data will be much greater than when hyperspectral data is available. However, she stresses that, given the cost benefits of the multispectral data, these cannot be discarded. “One of the advantages of multispectral datasets is that data can be obtained for multiple years, thereby allowing for change detection. Although this is also possible with hyperspectral data, the cost involved is prohibitive,” Cole concludes.

    Cole was speaking at the recent CGS 2016 conference, which was held at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research International Convention Centre, in Tshwane.


    Original article

  • 07 Apr 2016 2:08 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: The Southern Times

    Zimbabwe has joined 12 other Southern African countries that are benefitting from the transfer of new technologies and skills from the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (Jogmec), a move that is expected to attract investments into the country’s mining sector from Japanese mining companies.

    Jogmec works as an advisor for Japanese mining companies, with a view to secure their safe and stable activities in mining sectors outside Japan. Among other key roles, JOGMEC provides financial and technical support to exploration and development projects carried out by the Japanese companies.

    In 2008, Jogmec set up the Geological Remote Sensing Centre (GRSC) in Botswana to facilitate the transfer of geological remote sensing technique to SADC countries and scouting project seeds for future Jogmec mineral exploration. This has helped in strengthening relationships between southern African countries and japan.

    Speaking at meeting on sustainable development of mineral resources for the mining sector in Zimbabwe last week, Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Yoshi Tendai Hiraishi said the GRSC can now transfer state of the art GIS techniques and remote sensing know-how to Zimbabwean geologists working for the Geological Survey Department.

    “Almost all countries in the entire SADC region are benefiting from the activities of this centre.

    As we all know, southern Africa is abundantly endowed with mineral resources, but in view of their finite nature, the need to exploit them in a sustainable manner is crucial. Japan of today is largely dependent on importation of mineral resources from abroad but it used to be a leading mining country and has been developing advanced mining technologies since the 1970s,” he said. “The active involvement of Jogmec in the mining sector of Zimbabwe will hopefully, attract Japanese companies’ attention which may lead to investment in Zimbabwe’s mining sector by Japanese companies in the future.”

    To date, Jogmec has signed MOUs with 13 Sadc member states, including Zimbabwe, which signed a Memorandum of Understanding that allowed for the transfer of knowledge and skills last year. With the signing of the MoU in Zimbabwe, Jogmec has five projects running under its technical corporation programme that involves a transfer of researching technologies to government on sustainable exploitation of minerals.

    Zimbabwean geologists from the Geological Survey Department are currently receiving training at the GRSC in Botswana.

    Since the setting up of the GRSC, Jogmec has conducted JV exploration in politically stable SADC countries and currently has 9 ongoing projects in 6 African countries. There are two projects in Tanzania, two each in Namibia and South Africa, and one each in Malawi, Botswana and Ethiopia.

    Speaking at the same event, John Makandwa, director in the department of Mining Promotion and Development in the ministry of Mines and Mining Development said Zimbabwe’s mining sector has plenty of room for investment in exploration activities using modern technology.

    “Zimbabwe is under explored and yet to experience application of modern exploration technologies. Also, considering its highly prospective geology, the country has huge investment opportunities in the exploration and mine development,” he said.

    The country’s low exploration has been largely due to the negative perception of investors due to government policies, which scare investors.

    The mining sector is capital intensive and local banks are not offering long term capital, leaving offshore funding as the only available option. The situation has been exacerbated by the low commodity prices on the world market threatening the viability of resources-driven economies.

    Zimbabwe is currently finalizing the transformation of the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) into an exploration company – the Mineral Exploration and Promotion Corporation (MEPC).

    The MEPC will have the important mandate of ascertaining the value of the country’s unproven mineral deposits that have remained unknown for decades due to fragmented exploration by the private sector.

    Although Zimbabwe is a mineral-rich country, believed to be endowed with more than 60 different types of minerals, the country’s resources are largely under-explored.

    Japanese companies have been steadily increasing their presence in different sectors of the economy in the region.

    Last month, a delegation from the Japanese Business Federation (KEIDANREN) paid a courtesy call on the SADC Secretariat and expressed its keenness to seize more investment opportunities in the SADC region.

    Sadc currently accounts to over 50 percent shares of trade between Japan and the African continent and is home to over 100 Japanese companies.

    SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax told the delegation that under the SADC Free Trade Area configuration, investors enjoy free tariff and an integrated market of 15 SADC Member States, with a combined GDP of USD $686 billion (as of 2014), a combined population of 294 million and investment opportunities across sectors.

    Original article

  • 06 Apr 2016 8:07 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: GISuser

    The Group on Earth Observations announced the launch of the Early Warning Crop Monitor, a new tool to fight food insecurity. The announcement was made during the GEO 36th Executive Meeting held in Geneva on 8-9 March.

    Developed by the GEO Global Agricultural Monitoring Initiative (GEOGLAM), initiated by the G-20 Agriculture Ministers, the Early Warning Crop Monitor (ECWM) provides consensus reports on crop conditions in countries at risk of food insecurity in Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Central and East Asia. The March EWCM bulletin reports that countries in Southeast Asia, and even more so in Southern Africa, face severe droughts attributed to the on-going El Niño.

    The Early Warning Crop Monitor, together with the GEOGLAM Crop Monitor for the Agricultural Market Information Service (AMIS), will ultimately monitor crop development in 124 countries, totalling about 94 percent of the world’s agricultural area. Both reports synthesize remote sensing data, field observations and environmental modelling conducted by more than 40 international, regional and national organizations. The monthly reports are made available to decision-makers across the food security community and to the commodities markets. (

    GEO’s US Co-Chair, Dr Kathryn Sullivan, Administrator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), stated, “Concerns over food and water security are rising globally.  Ensuring that agricultural industries around the world have access to the best science, data, tools and resources is essential as we work to increase food security and mitigate the effects of droughts and floods. The GEOGLAM Early Warning Crop Monitor provides decision-makers with essential information, gathered from satellites, buoys and other observational tools, to be ready, responsive and resilient against extreme weather and water events.”

    During its latest meeting, the GEO Executive Committee also welcomed new Participating Organizations: European Association of Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC); Joint Board of Geospatial Information Societies (JBGIS); Mountain Research Initiative (MRI); and a new Observer, the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF).

    In addition to Kathryn Sullivan, the Executive Committee Co-Chairs include Hejun Yin, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Science and Technology (China); Rudolf Strohmeier, Assistant Director-General, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (European Commission); and Philemon Mjwara, Director-General, Department of Science and Technology (South Africa).


    The Group on Earth Observations (GEO)

    The intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is comprised of 102 Member states, including the European Commission, and 95 Participating Organizations. Established in 2005, GEO strives to improve the world’s observation systems and provide policy makers and scientists with accurate and useful data that can be used to make informed decisions on issues affecting the planet.  GEO’s primary focus is to develop a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) to enhance the ability of end-users to discover and access Earth observation data and convert it to useable and useful information. GEO is headquartered in Switzerland. For more information, visit


    Original article

  • 06 Apr 2016 7:59 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: ITWeb

    Young women from the Meta Economic Development Organisation (MEDO) space programme in the Western Cape last week made headway in designing Africa's first private satellite.

    MEDO is a non-profit organisation registered in SA with a sister company MEDO London in the UK. The organisation launched the space programme in June last year with the aim of encouraging young women to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related fields.

    MEDO's programme was developed in response to the organisation's observation that many corporates it works with experience a lack of skilled STEM employees – particularly female employees.

    "It is predicted that 80% of all future jobs are STEM-related, with almost double the pay of non-STEM-related careers. So what we are trying to do is to give these young women the best chance out there," says Judi Sandrock, co-founder of MEDO Space.

    At the bootcamp, the graduates built a prototype satellite of their selected design. The week began with the sharing and interrogation of ideas of the jobs that the satellite – MEDO Sat1 – should be tasked with.

    Over 20 ideas were put forward and after rigorous discussion, debate and voting, two payload ideas were selected. Food security in Africa was a strong theme, as well as being able to detect natural disasters like fires and floods.

    The group realised these goals could be achieved by the same payload of equipment, and the collaborative design process began.

    Food for thought

    Facilitating the week were graduates from the Cape Peninsular University of Technology (CPUT) – Angela Shumba, Leon Njouakoua and Khader Mananga; as well as graduates from the University of Cape Town – Monica Camarena and Abhijit Nath.

    Taking the conversation into the real world, CPUT professor Robert Van Zyl and his team hosted the group at their Space Satellite Laboratory. The day began by tracking the CPUT satellite ZACube1 ‘TshepisoSat' as it orbits the earth. Two pass-overs were tracked and data was received from the satellite using the radio ground station at the laboratory.

    The young women experienced a day in the life of a satellite engineer through practical demonstrations of the various projects and research being undertaken in the department, and started to build their mock-up satellite with the technical design of their payload.

    Thursday last week saw these young women, as a group, present their mock-up satellite to a select audience.

    "The young women made it very clear that food security is an issue for their future, and they want to make sure this satellite works towards finding solutions," says Sandrock. "The week was clear proof that when we put our minds together and apply technology, we can begin to tackle our challenges. The impact we are having with this programme is exceeding our boldest expectations."

    Space and beyond

    The group of aspiring space engineers hail from schools across the Western Cape, and consists of Sesam Mngqengqiswa, Abigail Meyer, Pheobyn Berdine Filander, Esihle Mazingi, Bhanekazi Tandwa, Asiphe Bunzi, Amanda Lutshetu, Brittany Bull, Nikiwe Jela, Siphelele Mzongwana, Loyisile Dlomo, and Erin Prins.

    The MEDO Space team shared a long list of bursary opportunities as well as how to apply for these. This Women in STEM programme is being featured at the World Economic Forum for Africa in May, as recognition for the significant impact it is having, and will have on young people in Africa.

    MEDO Space is running this project in Africa, introducing pre-matriculation young women to science and maths. The project has concentrated on organising weekend ‘SPACEPrep' electronics workshops as well as week-long ‘SPACETrek' camps during the school holidays.

    The project – in collaboration with the US-based Morehead State University – aims to combat critical skills shortages, as well as challenge stereotypes. The plan is to launch satellites every year as part of a decade-long project, using the journey towards each launch as an opportunity to ignite interest in science and develop engineering skills.

    MEDO Sat1 is on the launch manifest of Inter Orbital Systems and is due for launch in late 2016.

    Original article
  • 06 Apr 2016 7:48 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: WorldTribune

    Egypt, fearing its access to the Nile river will be hindered, plans to use a new satellite to track Ethiopia’s construction of Africa’s largest dam.

    The Egysat, launched earlier this month, will monitor Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam by capturing high quality photos of the construction site along with other sources of the Nile, said Alaa El-din El-Nahry, vice president of Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences.

    Ethiopia is more than 30 percent finished with the hydroelectric dam, which will be the largest in Africa and capable of producing 6,000 megawatts of energy. Egypt believes the dam will hugely impact its share of the Nile, the country’s main source of potable water.

    El-Nahry said the satellite will come into operation in mid-June after a two-month test period. It will track the dam’s height, storage capacity and water discharge. It will also monitor the Kongo River basin to assess the effectiveness of a proposed project to link the Kongo and Nile rivers, El-Nahry said.

    Egyptian officials said the satellite will be a reliable source of information which will be used in case it must resort to international arbitration over any violations in the dam’s stated purpose of electricity generation, El-Nahry said, according to Al-Ahram’s daily Arabic newspaper.

    Last year, Ethiopia and five other Nile-basin countries – Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi – endorsed the Co-operative Framework Agreement, which replaces a 1929 treaty granting Egypt veto power over any project on the Nile in upstream countries.

    Sudan, Egypt’s immediate downstream country, has backed Ethiopia’s plans to build the dam.

    Original article

  • 06 Apr 2016 7:35 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: ESA

    With deforestation accounting for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, satellite observations have an important role to play in mapping this changing ecosystem. ESA is therefore going to great lengths to make sure a new sensor will live up to its promise.

    Deforestation and forest degradation release about the same amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as all the road traffic across the globe.

    Initiatives such as the REDD+ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation programme were highlighted at the recent COP21 climate conference in Paris, bringing forests back into focus.

    The initiative offers incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

    Earth-observing satellites contribute valuable information to understand our changing forest ecosystems.

    While mapping forests and their properties from space pose a huge technical challenge, space agencies are eager to develop novel sensors that allow forests to be mapped in detail.

    As such, ESA is building the Biomass mission to determine the amount of biomass and carbon stored in forests.

    To make sure the satellite’s radar will deliver on its promise, the novel measuring technique is being tested from aircraft over a wide range of forest types and conditions.

    The latest campaign, AfriSAR, brought Gabon under the radar spotlight. Forests cover 80% of the country, making is home to some of Africa’s most diverse rainforest and a haven for wildlife, including western lowland gorillas and forest elephants.

    Carrying on from an earlier campaign in July 2015 during the dry season, this recent effort captured the onset of the rainy season.

    The knowledge from this second leg is essential to understand how different moisture and climatic conditions will affect measurements from the satellite.

    The DLR German Aerospace Center’s AfriSAR field team leader, Ralf Horn, said, “Everything went smoothly and the radar measurements are of excellent quality. The biggest challenge we faced was the weather, but most of the rain fell during the night and we were able to fly above the clouds.”

    To help interpret the airborne data, a team from University College London and the French Cesbio institute once again made measurements and set up ground plots in the Lope National Park – a lush forest run by the Gabonese Agency of National Parks, ANPN.

    NASA has also joined AfriSAR, bringing in two planes that carried an additional radar instrument and an optical equivalent, lidar, which they are using to support their NISAR and GEDI missions. The combined airborne measurements are a unique source of information on African tropical forest.

    Public interest was expressed by the Gabonese government during a media day at Libreville airport where the teams are stationed. ESA campaign coordinator Tânia Casal said, “Once more, the Gabonese Space Agency AGEOS and ANPN, who are partners in this initiative, have been instrumental in AfriSAR's success, guiding us and helping overcome logistical challenges that we face with such a large campaign.” 

    Next up is the job of processing and analysing the huge amount of data. Expectations are that, in a year from now, significant contributions will have been made to advance our knowledge of the radar signals from tropical forest.

    Original article

  • 13 Mar 2016 2:58 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Pacific Standard

    It's corn-planting season right now in southern Africa, but things aren't looking good. The current El Niño pattern has brought severe drought to the region, killing cattle and slashing projected yields for crops like corn, a staple food in the area. As a result, 14 million people, many of them subsistence farmers, are in danger of going hungry, according to the United Nations' World Food Program.


    Thanks to satellite images, we're able to see the region's stresses from space. The map above was made from data collected by a National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite. It shows that, in December 2015, much of southern Africa was significantly hotter than it has been on average over the last 15 years. The reddest parts of the map represent places where temperatures were at least 12 degrees Celsius higher than usual.


    Below, NASA satellite data shows vegetation—as measured by the light it reflects into space—is suffering as a result of the drought. The rare, green portions of the map represent regions with lusher-than-normal vegetation for this time of year, while the yellow represents scarcer, more stressed plants.


    Although countries have always had to deal with periodical El Niño events and their concomitant droughts and floods, global warming makes things worse. "The relative intensity of this El Niño is certainly related to climate change," Mary Scholes, a botanist who studies the effects of climate change at the University of Witwatersrand, told the Guardian.


    In the future, climate scientists expect extreme El Niño events to occur more frequently as the planet warms.

    Original article

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