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  • 02 Feb 2016 3:30 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: All Africa; Article: Sheriff Barry


    The Ministry of Fisheries in collaboration with Monitoring on the Environment for Security in Africa (MESA) on Wednesday commenced a three-day training on Earth Observation (EO) for members of the National Working Committee (NWC).

    The training held at a Centre in Bijilo was centred on the theme, 'Building capacity for the use of Earth Observation Information to Support Fisheries management and safety at sea in West Africa'.

    It could be recalled that the Regional Project entitled 'Monitoring Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) was officially launched at the Paradise Suites Hotel on the 18th December, 2014 after the regional launching at the implementation Headquarters, University of Legon in Accra, Ghana from the 4th to 8th August, 2014.

    The objectives of the project is to increase access to reliable and periodic EO coastal marine monitoring data and services, monitoring parameters to support fisheries management, monitoring parameters indicative of ocean states, and improved cooperation between African countries (national and regional) with European countries.

    In declaring the workshop open, Matarr Bah, Director of the Department of Fisheries, deputising for the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Fisheries Abdoulie T.B Jarra, explained that MESA is a Pan-African programme that builds on results of previous projects, that is Preparation meant for Use of Meteosat Second Generation in Africa (PUMA) Project (2001-2005) and the African Monitoring of Environment for Sustainable Development (AMESD) programme (2007-2013).

    These, he said, are to increase the information management, decision-making and planning capacity of African continental, regional and national institutions mandated for environment, climate, food security and related responsibilities by enhancing access to, and exploitation of relevant Earth Observation (EO) applications in Africa.

    He further stated that the fisheries sector is presently threatened due to the impact of climate change, poor management practices and ever increasing challenges from Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU fishing) by both artisanal and industrial fisheries sectors, thereby contributing to over exploitation of fisheries and other marine resources.

    "The consequences of IUU fishing are the scarcity of fisheries resources, lack of fish products in the markets and above all food insecurity. Added to these are the important economic losses and irreversible threats of destruction of resources caused by IUU fishing, and as a result, the need for justifying to reinforce national fisheries surveillance units, including active and collaboration of The Gambia Navy."

    Therefore, he noted, MESA project will focus on assisting participating countries to develop capacity and use EO data to manage fisheries resources and ensure safety at sea including the eradication of IUU fishing.

    He urged the participants to take the training seriously for the effective implementation of the project.


    Original article

  • 02 Feb 2016 3:25 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: NASA Earth Observation


    An astronaut aboard the International Space Station looked toward the horizon as the spacecraft sped across southern Africa.

    The crew member used a short lens that mimics closely what the human eye seesin this case, a big panorama from a point over northern South Africa, looking southeast to the Indian Ocean.

    The image shows many details, but one of the most striking is the political boundary defining the small country of Lesotho, one of the few places on Earth where a political boundary can be seen from space. The greener, more vegetated South Africa agricultural landscape (with a very low population density) contrasts with the less vegetated, tan landscape of the Lesotho lowlands, where more dense populations live. Lesotho is a small enclave of 2 million people completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa (population 53 million).
    The Katse Dam reservoir in Lesotho was built as part of an international agreement to increase the water supply to the many, rapidly growing cities of the distant Witwatersrand (lower left). In Africa's largest water transfer project, water from the high-rainfall zone in the mountains of Lesotho is fed from Katse through tunnels dug beneath the Maluti Mountains. The water then flows 250 kilometers (150 miles) in rivers to the Witwatersrand, South Africa's industrial heartland.

    ISS crews can visually pinpoint the Witwatersrand by the scatter of small, but prominent, light-toned mine dumps full of the waste material remaining after the extraction of gold. The mine dumps are the main feature that crews can readily see because even large cities can be difficult to detect from space as the ISS rapidly flies past. More than 12.3 million people live in this major urban region.

    One other detail stands out. A series of concentric lines indicates one of the Earth's oldest and largest visible impact craters. The Vredefort impact crater was caused by an asteroid 10 kilometers (6 miles) in diameter that impacted the region about 1.8 billion years ago. The original crater is estimated to have been 300 kilometers (200 miles) in diameter. Today it is eroded and partly obscured by younger rocks.

    Astronaut photograph ISS045-E-2492 was acquired on September 14, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 14 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 45 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State U., Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.


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    Original article


  • 02 Feb 2016 3:22 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: All Africa; Article: Clifford Gikunda


    Scientists from various research institutions in the region are carrying out a pilot project for gathering crop data using drones.

    The researchers from the University of Nairobi and the International Potato Centre (CIP) in partnership with the University of Missouri, regional civil aviation authorities, regional agricultural research institutes and regional statistics bodies, have started a pilot project in Tanzania, where a drone was able to pinpoint 14 different varieties of sweet potatoes in Ukiriguru Research Institute in Mwanza.

    "Crop statistics are important for planning, policy making and timely interventions to address food security," said Elijah Cheruiyot, a research associate in remote sensing at the International Potato Centre in Kenya.

    Drone-based remote sensing technology is a game changer in the gathering of agricultural statistics data. It is relatively cheaper; boasts high quality sensors and allows collection of accurate statistics on a large scale with minimal effects from clouds or rain, which in some cases blurs images taken by satellites.

    "The drone maps everything on the ground, after which the data is processed by specialised software and scientists can then zero in on their area of interest," said Mr Cheruiyot.


    Original article

  • 02 Feb 2016 3:03 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Earth Magazine; Article:Terri Cook


    In April 2008, violent protests erupted across the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti. Enraged by soaring food prices and all-too-frequent hunger pangs, protesters smashed windows, looted shops, barricaded streets with blazing cars and stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Port-au-Prince. The week of violence, during which five people were killed, flared after the cost of staples like beans and cooking oil spiked dramatically and the price of rice nearly doubled in four months, increasing hardships in a nation where 80 percent of the population survives on less than $2 per day. 

    So-called “food riots” aren’t restricted to the Caribbean. Between 2006 and 2008, as the cost of food, fuel oil and other commodities surged to levels not experienced in almost three decades, disturbances erupted around the planet. Large — and frequently violent — protests broke out in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. 

    Although many factors, like high unemployment, political frustration and poverty, contribute to social unrest, the timing of the 2007–2008 turbulence correlated clearly with peaks in global food prices. According to a study published in 2011 by the New England Complex Systems Institute, when the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index rose above 180, food riots occurred in 30 countries. When the index decreased later that year, social unrest also declined. 

    In the past, price spikes like these have usually been short-lived, wrote Joel Bourne Jr. in his 2015 book, “The End of Plenty.” Things typically evened out quickly as global trade shifted grain from countries with surpluses to those with deficits, and farmers responded to higher prices by increasing planting. But in 2007–2008, the world’s grain harvests were close to record-setting levels. Unlike in the past, Bourne wrote, this time the increased prices — and the ensuing violence — were due to the fact that the world was running out of food.

    Feeding the world today is a daunting challenge; in the future, as global population skyrockets, it is likely to be a Herculean task. But researchers around the world are working on the problem, including how to implement the many changes that must happen locally at the farm level to effect large-scale change. But first, farmers need information. And that’s where science comes in.


    A Herculean Task

     Last summer, the planet’s population reached 7.3 billion. Of these, 795 million people lack enough food to lead healthy, active lifestyles, according to the United Nations World Food Program. In addition, more than 2 billion people currently suffer from “hidden hunger” — deficiencies in micronutrients such as iodine, vitamin A and iron — that can lead to blindness, stunted growth and restricted cognitive development.

    The world’s population is projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050 and 11 billion by 2100, according to the United Nations World Population Prospects report released last July. Unlike previous estimates, which generally agreed that the planet’s population would peak at 9 billion to 9.5 billion people in about 2070, a statistical analysis published in 2014 in Science concluded that the planet’s population is unlikely to stabilize this century. There is now an 80 percent chance, the authors reported, that, by 2100, the planet will host between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion people. 

    These numbers add up to roughly 75 million more mouths to feed each year. Add to that the increasing demand for grain from livestock to feed increasingly meat- and dairy-rich diets, as well as from biofuels, particularly in the U.S. and Europe, and all told, the FAO estimates that by 2050, the global food demand will rise more than 60 percent above 2005 levels. Other estimates suggest that number may be as high as 110 percent, says Deepak Ray, a senior scientist at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

    Rapidly increasing productivity is a big challenge, which will only be made more challenging by a changing climate that could bring increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, rising water levels along coasts, and larger and more frequent extreme-weather events, according to a report issued last August by the joint U.S.-U.K. Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience. 

    A 2012 study by the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research found the global food system contributes nearly one-third of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. As a driving force behind climate change, it creates a vicious cycle that will be difficult to break. Compounding these issues is the fact that agricultural production also impacts the environment through loss of biodiversity, degradation of soils, and pollution and use of sparse freshwater resources. How we meet the planet’s growing demand for food, while simultaneously mitigating agriculture’s environmental impacts, will be one of the 21st century’s greatest challenges.


    Gathering Global-Scale Information 

    Fortunately, the number of tools and technologies available to help humanity tackle this challenge is increasing. In 1999, Navin Ramankutty, now an agricultural geographer at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, fused satellite data with census reports, creating the first realistic global maps of agriculture. Since then, Ray says, scientists and managers have had access to increasingly detailed geospatial datasets like global crop yields and harvest frequencies, and insights from these data have transformed the field. “They revolutionized agronomy,” he says. 

    Since the launch of the Landsat program in 1972, remote sensing has played an integral role in agricultural mapping and monitoring. And the rapid improvements in Earth observation technologies in recent decades have offered opportunities to boost agricultural productivity and address critical issues in the world food system. 

    One of the leaders in this realm is the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), a voluntary partnership of governments and international organizations working to integrate Earth observations into resources that can guide policy decisions. In 2011, the Group of Twenty Agriculture Ministers tasked GEO with using remote sensing tools to strengthen agricultural monitoring. The goal of the resulting GLobal Agricultural Monitoring initiative (GEOGLAM) is to improve the international community’s capacity to both generate and disseminate timely, accurate forecasts of agricultural production at regional to global scales.

    One GEOGLAM partner is CropWatch, a program sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Sciences that relies heavily on remote sensing data to monitor global crop production. CropWatch issues quarterly bulletins that report global agroclimatic conditions as well as the status of major producers of maize, wheat, rice and soybeans — the “big four” crops that provide about 80 percent of all calories consumed by humans. 

    A 2013 review of CropWatch’s remote sensing products in the International Journal of Digital Earth found its estimates of crop conditions and acreage, and its predictions of crop yields and food production, to be highly accurate. Such data can offer early warnings of potential shortages so that timely interventions — such as the delivery of food aid — can be planned and implemented. 

    Ray and other researchers are also working on global production numbers. He and his colleagues have developed an extensive crop statistics database filled with satellite data that they use to analyze how crop yields are changing. Specifically, they’re interested in whether or not the world is on track to double global food production by 2050 to meet the projected demands without clearing additional land, which has widely acknowledged drawbacks due to greenhouse gas emissions and loss of biodiversity. How the productivity of the big four crops is increasing on existing agricultural land will determine whether we can meet these growing demands.

    In a 2013 analysis in PLOS One, Ray and his team concluded that most recent yields of the four major crops are increasing at 0.9 to 1.6 percent per year — nowhere near the annual rate of 2.4 percent necessary to double production by 2050. At current rates, only about a 38 percent increase in wheat, a 42 percent increase in rice, a 55 percent increase in soybeans and a 67 percent increase in maize production will be possible by 2050.

    The situation, Ray says, is that “most of the lands that could potentially be brought under crop cultivation have already been brought into production.”

    If increasing crop yields and expanding the area under cultivation aren’t possible or desirable, a third strategy is to increase the frequency of harvests on existing croplands, wrote Ray and ecologist Jonathan Foley, now executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, in a 2013 study in Environmental Research Letters. This could be accomplished by planting multiple crops per year, reducing crop failure and leaving less land fallow.

    By analyzing a global compilation of agricultural statistics, Ray and Foley uncovered significant differences in the frequency of cropland harvests in countries around the planet. Between 2000 and 2011, 19 countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa were statistically “unable to harvest their standing cropland even once every two years.” In other words, on average, farmers in these 19 nations failed to harvest even half of their crops each year. This was most likely due to crop failure caused by factors such as drought, lack of rainfall at the right times, catastrophic storms and pests. The researchers also identified a larger number of nations that are harvesting their croplands less than once, on average, per year, as well as numerous countries in the tropics which, despite the more favorable climate, are not meeting their potential of two or three harvests per year. 

    By calculating the maximum potential number of harvests in each country and comparing this with what’s actually happening, Ray and Foley identified “harvest gaps.” Such gaps “show the potential to grow more food on the same piece of land if conditions become more suitable.” Africa has the largest concentration of harvest gaps, followed by Asia and Latin America. Closing these gaps could boost agricultural production by nearly 50 percent above 2010–2011 levels, at least over the short term, although the researchers warned that increasing the frequency of harvests could also lead to the “long-term deterioration of soil, water resources and the agricultural land base.” Closing the gaps in a sustainable way may not be easy, Ray says, given that modern industrial-scale agriculture currently relies heavily on the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.


    Modeling the Future

    Scientists aren’t just modeling current production, but also how future agricultural production might be affected by the effects of a changing climate — increasing temperatures, variations in precipitation patterns, rising carbon dioxide concentrations, and increasing air pollution. 

    In 2009, NASA researchers Chris Funk and Molly Brown modeled the convergence of three trends — changes in climate, changes in agricultural production and population increases — and used the results to simulate the impacts on global cereal availability through 2030. The researchers concluded that by that time, global per capita cereal production will be about 327 kilograms, down from a peak of 372 kilograms in 1986. The projected decrease in per capita production could re-expose millions of people in Asia to chronic undernourishment. Even harder hit, however, would be eastern and central Africa, with their rapidly increasing populations and already low per capita cereal production levels. Without a “concerted effort,” the researchers noted, international food security will continue to erode, and much of the planet “will experience significant reductions in food availability as consumption demands increase.”

    In a warming world, modeling efforts like this provide critical input for formulating new regulations and policies at regional, national and international levels. Germany, for example, implemented a series of climate laws in 2007, one of which was an ordinance that ensures sustainability standards for biofuel production. The United Nations, meanwhile, suggests that changing regulations for mitigating pollution from ozone — whose formation strongly correlates with temperature — is an important strategy for safeguarding food production. 

    To understand how ozone affects the production of the planet’s major crops, a team led by Amos Tai, now an associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, modeled the individual and combined effects of mean temperature and ozone pollution trends from 2000 to 2050 on the production of the four major crops. 

    In a 2014 Nature Climate Change study, the researchers estimated that the combined effects could reduce global crop production by more than 10 percent by 2050. They also found that wheat and rice production is generally more sensitive to ozone than maize or soybeans. Depending upon the modeled pollution scenario, the study predicts declines in wheat production of 50 to 60 percent by 2050 in southern Asia, and rice production decreases of up to 5 percent in both southern Asia and China.

    Much work also needs to be done to understand the uncertainties inherent in models used to assess environmental and economic impacts, wrote John Ingram and co-authors in their 2010 book, “Food Security and Global Environmental Change.” “A major limitation of most models,” they wrote, “is that they may address only individual components of the food system and thus are unable to analyze the interactive effects and feedbacks among components.”

    To make modeling assessments more reliable, a major interdisciplinary initiative, Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, led by Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, is working to improve projections of the impacts of climate change on the agricultural sector, with the goal of increasing the ability of all nations to adapt to this change, the researchers say.

    The project has organized teams of scientists to improve predictions of agricultural productivity in response to such factors as high temperatures, elevated carbon dioxide concentrations, and limited water resources. Similar teams, organized by model type, crop type and region, are working to improve and integrate environmental and food system models to better understand the relative importance of each of these factors.


    Amazing GRACE

    Water is certainly going to be a limiting factor — if not the limiting factor — for feeding 11 billion people. Until recently, agricultural paradigms have focused primarily on improving agricultural production, often to the detriment of the environment, wrote a team led by Foley in a 2011 Nature paper. Unsustainable water withdrawals, particularly in regions with competing water demands, are one of many factors affecting food security, especially given that at least half of the irrigation water used to grow the world’s food is supplied by groundwater, wrote Jay Famiglietti, a professor of earth systems science and civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Irvine, in a 2014 Nature Climate Change commentary.

    Around the planet, groundwater is being extracted at much greater rates than it’s being naturally replenished, and many of the world’s largest aquifers — almost all of which underlie and are largely responsible for enormously productive agricultural regions — are being unsustainably pumped. To meet the planet’s growing demand for food, groundwater needs to be more carefully managed, especially in crucial agricultural areas, Famiglietti wrote. 

    In recent years, NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) has become a critical tool for monitoring agricultural groundwater withdrawals. The mission’s twin satellites make detailed measurements of Earth’s gravity field, which allow scientists to calculate changes in the mass of terrestrial water storage, including groundwater, soil moisture and snow, at regional to continental scales. GRACE is providing unprecedented data about groundwater depletion, which are helping scientists anticipate future food security issues around the planet. 

    In northwestern India, for example, there has been indirect evidence for years of severe groundwater depletion in the “breadbasket” states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. In 2009, a group of scientists, led by Matthew Rodell, chief of the Hydrological Sciences Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, used GRACE data to confirm that groundwater in the region was being extracted at an average rate of almost 18 cubic kilometers per year from 2002 through 2008. In certain parts of Haryana, local rates of water table decline are as high as 10 meters per year, the researchers reported in Nature.

    If measures aren’t taken soon to ensure the sustainable use of groundwater in that region, Rodell and his colleagues wrote, the consequences may include shortages of potable water, a reduction of agricultural output and severe socioeconomic stresses. In addition, they noted, competition for limited water resources with neighboring Pakistan, where groundwater is essential for much of the arid nation’s agricultural output, is likely to aggravate the already-tense relations between the two countries.

    Gathering tremendous amounts of global-scale data with advanced agricultural monitoring tools is vital, but farming is still a local endeavor. Somehow, all of that information has to be transferred down to the local farmer, who must be able to use it.


    Going Local: Smallscale Changes

    Lack of access to information that affects farming practices, such as temperature highs and lows and precipitation records, has historically made it difficult for “smallholder” farmers — family farmers who manage 1 to 10 hectares of land — to make informed decisions regarding how much of which crops they should plant, and when. This is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where smallholders provide up to 80 percent of local food supplies, according to the FAO. There are an estimated half-billion smallholder farms on the planet.

    The recent advent of open data practices, which allow users with Internet access to pull, process and share information from multiple sources, could enable faster and more effective decision-making by on-the-ground smallholders, fostering innovation and offering transparency, according to a 2015 report by the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative.

     Open data are increasingly being used to underpin mobile phone apps for farmers, who can use them to access critical agricultural information in a timely manner. One example is Plantwise, a program led by the nonprofit Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International that aims to reduce pest- and disease-induced crop losses, which can be as high as 40 percent per year globally. By combining open-access data from a variety of sources into easy-to-search formats, Plantwise has developed a series of tools that help farmers diagnose what is harming their crop, alert them to pest outbreaks and provide access to more than 9,000 fact sheets with information on best practices to prevent crop losses. Within a couple of years, Plantwise has helped more than 2 million smallholder farmers in 33 developing countries.

     Another effort using data analysis to help farmers in Colombia pinpointed the reasons for a 17 percent drop in rice yields from 2007 to 2012. After analyzing large datasets from both open and private sources, the nonprofit International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) helped develop a free agricultural decision-making tool for Colombian rice growers. When their analyses forecast a period of drought, CIAT offered planting advice to any farmer accessing the data, helping the farmers avoid an estimated $3.6 million in potential losses, according to a 2015 report by the Overseas Development Institute. The program is now being expanded to include rice growers in Peru and Nicaragua.

    In Central and South America, Africa, India and other regions, billions of people are facing a future of food insecurity and the social unrest that could accompany it. Fortunately, a growing number of tools and technologies have the potential to provide tangible local benefits that will cumulatively allow us to confront these challenges. Increasing crop yields, slight shifts in diet and reductions in food loss and waste can collectively free up enough food to meet most demands, Ray says, although he emphasizes that there are no easy answers. The critical question, he says, is whether we can make these changes faster than the world’s hungry population grows.


    Original article

     

  • 02 Feb 2016 2:21 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Engineering News; Article: African News Agency

     

    A new satellite launched on Sunday will monitor rising sea levels caused by global warming and provide forecast data on El Nino events. Since 1992, a global sea level rise of 70 mm has been observed by researchers. This has come as Southern Africa remained in the grip of a drought that has resulted in severe strain on the agricultural industry. An intense El Nino, most likely caused by climate change, was believed to be behind the drought. The Jason­3 satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the United States (US) on Sunday will follow its predecessor Jason­2, launched in 2008, in evaluating the 3 mm of rising sea levels every year.
    The satellite would also produce forecasts on El Nino and La Nina events, which would be valuable to drought-striken areas caused by El Nino, such as Southern Africa. El nino and global warming was expected to mainly affect developing nations who would have access to less resources and money to combat the economic consequences. Josh Willis, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) project scientist for Jason­3 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the US, explained that the satellites would help understand how fast sea levels were rising due to climate change.

    “As human-­caused global warming drives sea levels higher and higher, we are literally reshaping the surface of our planet,” said Willis. Recent research published by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) has also confirmed a rise in surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean, which further emphasised the effects of climate change.
    The Jason­3 mission was hoping to achieve a better understanding of the ocean’s role in climate change, as well as producing extensive global data on the ocean currents and tides. The satellite was a collaboration between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA, the French space agency CNES, and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. After six months of a system calibration, Jason­3 will begin working alongside Jason­2 in delivering data on the world’s oceans every ten days. The mission would improve weather, climate and ocean forecasts. This would include allowing global weather agencies to accurately forecast the strength of tropical cyclones.


    Original article



    A new satellite launched on Sunday will monitor rising sea levels caused by global warming and provide forecast data on El Nino events. Since 1992, a global sea level rise of 70 mm has been observed by researchers. Print Send to Friend 1 1 This has come as Southern Africa remained in the grip of a drought that has resulted in severe strain on the agricultural industry. An intense El Nino, most likely caused by climate change, was believed to be behind the drought. The Jason­3 satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the United States (US) on Sunday will follow its predecessor Jason­2, launched in 2008, in evaluating the 3 mm of rising sea levels every year. More Insight UN food agency says 14m face hunger in Southern Africa India expands deep-sea mining The satellite would also produce forecasts on El Nino and La Nina events, which would be valuable to drought-striken areas caused by El Nino, such as Southern Africa. El nino and global warming was expected to mainly affect developing nations who would have access to less resources and money to combat the economic consequences. Josh Willis, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) project scientist for Jason­3 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the US, explained that the satellites would help understand how fast sea levels were rising due to climate change. “As human­caused global warming drives sea levels higher and higher, we are literally reshaping the surface of our planet,” said Willis. Recent research published by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) has also confirmed a rise in surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean, which further emphasised the effects of climate change. The Jason­3 mission was hoping to achieve a better understanding of the ocean’s role in climate change, as well as producing extensive global data on the ocean currents and tides. The satellite was a collaboration between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA, the French space agency CNES, and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. After six months of a system calibration, Jason­3 will begin working alongside Jason­2 in delivering data on the world’s oceans every ten days. The mission would improve weather, climate and ocean forecasts. This would include allowing global weather agencies to accurately forecast the strength of tropical cyclones.

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  • 02 Feb 2016 12:32 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Trajectory Magazine; Article: Bykristin Quin


    Satellite imagery is an untapped resource for understanding human geography, according to John Irvine, the chief data scientist at Draper Laboratory.

    The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is funding research at Draper in which computer models analyze commercial satellite imagery to reveal socio-cultural conditions such as economic wellbeing, community engagement, and attitudes toward governance.

    The NGA-funded research, expected to wrap up in April, studies the effectiveness of Draper’s image-based Socio-Cultural Observation, Prediction, and Estimation (iSCOPE) models using imagery of Sub-Saharan African. The results are compared with survey data for validation. iSCOPE is part of an integrated portfolio at Draper intended to help government and industry analysts make better use of Big Data.

    The traditional way of learning a society’s human geography is through direct observation, survey data, and media. Draper’s goal is to take advantage of new and growing sources of information in commercial remote sensing to collect information about society more cost effectively, over broader areas, and through a more reproducible process, according to Irvine.

    “Lots of people need to be well informed about societies when doing business in different parts of the world—trying to engage in commerce, enact policy decisions, address problems related to health and wellbeing,” Irvine said. “Often there is a shortage of data or if available it is expensive to collect.”

    The lab’s current research is intended to build upon previous success and demonstrate broader effectiveness. With prior funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Draper had an 85 percent success rate in predicting socio-cultural characteristics by applying its models to satellite imagery. The imagery results were compared with survey data from 500 villages in northern Afghanistan.

    Although survey data is Draper’s standard for truth while it conducts research, the future expectation is the models will be robust enough to be applied in other areas without the need to conduct surveys.

    Satellite imagery can illuminate human geography in many ways, according to Irvine. For example, tree cover or the size, spacing, and orientation of houses can reveal the local level of income. The density and connectedness of a village—such as its access to paved roads or railroads—can often shed light on its citizens’ political engagement and attitudes about society as a whole.

    The current study of Sub-Saharan Africa focuses on Botswana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. The region was selected because it represents a cross-section of societal and economic differences from culture to urbanization.

    Irvine said SmallSats and the growing number of commercial remote sensing data sets would bolster the ability to leverage commercial imagery for socio-cultural understanding.

    “I was thrilled with our initial work for ONR,” Irvine said. “The opportunity to extend that work now with NGA is great. This has the potential to really change the way people approach human geography.”


    Original article

    Satellite imagery is an untapped resource for understanding human geography, according to John Irvine, the chief data scientist at Draper Laboratory.

    The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is funding research at Draper in which computer models analyze commercial satellite imagery to reveal socio-cultural conditions such as economic wellbeing, community engagement, and attitudes toward governance.

    The NGA-funded research, expected to wrap up in April, studies the effectiveness of Draper’s image-based Socio-Cultural Observation, Prediction, and Estimation (iSCOPE) models using imagery of Sub-Saharan African. The results are compared with survey data for validation. iSCOPE is part of an integrated portfolio at Draper intended to help government and industry analysts make better use of Big Data.

    The traditional way of learning a society’s human geography is through direct observation, survey data, and media. Draper’s goal is to take advantage of new and growing sources of information in commercial remote sensing to collect information about society more cost effectively, over broader areas, and through a more reproducible process, according to Irvine.

    “Lots of people need to be well informed about societies when doing business in different parts of the world—trying to engage in commerce, enact policy decisions, address problems related to health and wellbeing,” Irvine said. “Often there is a shortage of data or if available it is expensive to collect.”

    The lab’s current research is intended to build upon previous success and demonstrate broader effectiveness. With prior funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Draper had an 85 percent success rate in predicting socio-cultural characteristics by applying its models to satellite imagery. The imagery results were compared with survey data from 500 villages in northern Afghanistan.

    Although survey data is Draper’s standard for truth while it conducts research, the future expectation is the models will be robust enough to be applied in other areas without the need to conduct surveys.

    Satellite imagery can illuminate human geography in many ways, according to Irvine. For example, tree cover or the size, spacing, and orientation of houses can reveal the local level of income. The density and connectedness of a village—such as its access to paved roads or railroads—can often shed light on its citizens’ political engagement and attitudes about society as a whole.

    The current study of Sub-Saharan Africa focuses on Botswana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. The region was selected because it represents a cross-section of societal and economic differences from culture to urbanization.

    Irvine said SmallSats and the growing number of commercial remote sensing data sets would bolster the ability to leverage commercial imagery for socio-cultural understanding.

    “I was thrilled with our initial work for ONR,” Irvine said. “The opportunity to extend that work now with NGA is great. This has the potential to really change the way people approach human geography.”

    - See more at: http://trajectorymagazine.com/got-geoint/item/2101-a-new-approach-to-human-geography.html#sthash.66nP7Pc5.dpuf


    Satellite imagery is an untapped resource for understanding human geography, according to John Irvine, the chief data scientist at Draper Laboratory.

    The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is funding research at Draper in which computer models analyze commercial satellite imagery to reveal socio-cultural conditions such as economic wellbeing, community engagement, and attitudes toward governance.

    The NGA-funded research, expected to wrap up in April, studies the effectiveness of Draper’s image-based Socio-Cultural Observation, Prediction, and Estimation (iSCOPE) models using imagery of Sub-Saharan African. The results are compared with survey data for validation. iSCOPE is part of an integrated portfolio at Draper intended to help government and industry analysts make better use of Big Data.

    The traditional way of learning a society’s human geography is through direct observation, survey data, and media. Draper’s goal is to take advantage of new and growing sources of information in commercial remote sensing to collect information about society more cost effectively, over broader areas, and through a more reproducible process, according to Irvine.

    “Lots of people need to be well informed about societies when doing business in different parts of the world—trying to engage in commerce, enact policy decisions, address problems related to health and wellbeing,” Irvine said. “Often there is a shortage of data or if available it is expensive to collect.”

    The lab’s current research is intended to build upon previous success and demonstrate broader effectiveness. With prior funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Draper had an 85 percent success rate in predicting socio-cultural characteristics by applying its models to satellite imagery. The imagery results were compared with survey data from 500 villages in northern Afghanistan.

    Although survey data is Draper’s standard for truth while it conducts research, the future expectation is the models will be robust enough to be applied in other areas without the need to conduct surveys.

    Satellite imagery can illuminate human geography in many ways, according to Irvine. For example, tree cover or the size, spacing, and orientation of houses can reveal the local level of income. The density and connectedness of a village—such as its access to paved roads or railroads—can often shed light on its citizens’ political engagement and attitudes about society as a whole.

    The current study of Sub-Saharan Africa focuses on Botswana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. The region was selected because it represents a cross-section of societal and economic differences from culture to urbanization.

    Irvine said SmallSats and the growing number of commercial remote sensing data sets would bolster the ability to leverage commercial imagery for socio-cultural understanding.

    “I was thrilled with our initial work for ONR,” Irvine said. “The opportunity to extend that work now with NGA is great. This has the potential to really change the way people approach human geography.”

    - See more at: http://trajectorymagazine.com/got-geoint/item/2101-a-new-approach-to-human-geography.html#sthash.66nP7Pc5.dpuf
  • 15 Jan 2016 9:30 AM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: ECOWREX


    The lack of data and planning tool continue to pose a major challenge towards the development of the energy sector in West Africa. Reliable information about the region and planning tools are not readily available or underdeveloped. As a policy response, ECREEE in 2012, launched the ECOWAS observatory for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECOWREX). Considering the improvement in technology for data access and sharing, the need for data standardization and improvement in energy resources and potential mapping, ECREEE is taking further steps towards restructuring and improving the ECOWREX Geographic Information System (GIS).


    In partnership with the University of Geneva, Noveltis S.A.S, the Energy Centre of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the Directorate of Energy, Cape Verde, ECREEE is currently executing a project titled “ECOWREX 2” with the theme “Promoting Sustainable Energy Access through the use of geospatial technologies in West Africa”. It is funded by the European Union (for a total Grant of EURO 927,204.47) under the ACP-EU Science and Technology Programme II (ACP S&T II, GRANT FED/2013/330-248) which generally, aims to contribute towards building and strengthening capacities in the areas of Science, Technology and Innovation in the ACP countries.

    Specifically, ECOWREX 2 seeks to improve the ECOWREX GIS (available at: www.ecowrex.org/mapView/), by building a complete Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) and adding new resource maps of energy access, green power potential/power consumption, all focused on increasing investment in West Africa. The output will be fully compliant with the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards, thereby aiding data interoperability, effective data processing, sharing and knowledge transfer.

    The major outputs of the project includes:

    1. An improved web-based map framework with improved functionalities to enable easy and reliable sharing and transfer of data.
    2. Enhanced solar and wind maps with improved temporal and spatial resolutions necessary for planning.
    3. A map of ratio between power consumption and green power production potential.
    4. Energy access map based on the “GEAR GIS toolkit” model developed by the KNUST Energy Centre, for Ghana.
    5. Increased knowledge and awareness on the use of geospatial technology, including data and metadata collection standards in West Africa.

    Original article

  • 13 Jan 2016 2:35 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Space Daily



    This global map shows the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the troposphere as detected by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument aboard the Aura satellite, averaged over 2014. Image courtesy NASA. For a larger version of this image please go here.


    Using new, high-resolution global satellite maps of air quality indicators, NASA scientists tracked air pollution trends over the last decade in various regions and 195 cities around the globe. The findings were presented Monday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco and published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

    "These changes in air quality patterns aren't random," said Bryan Duncan, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who led the research. "When governments step in and say we're going to build something here or we're going to regulate this pollutant, you see the impact in the data."

    Duncan and his team examined observations made from 2005 to 2014 by the Dutch-Finnish Ozone Monitoring Instrument aboard NASA's Aura satellite. One of the atmospheric gases the instrument detects is nitrogen dioxide, a yellow-brown gas that is a common emission from cars, power plants and industrial activity. Nitrogen dioxide can quickly transform into ground-level ozone, a major respiratory pollutant in urban smog. Nitrogen dioxide hotspots, used as an indicator of general air quality, occur over most major cities in developed and developing nations.

    The science team analyzed year-to-year trends in nitrogen dioxide levels around the world. To look for possible explanations for the trends, the researchers compared the satellite record to information about emission controls regulations, national gross domestic product and urban growth.

    "With the new high-resolution data, we are now able to zoom down to study pollution changes within cities, including from some individual sources, like large power plants," said Duncan.

    Previous work using satellites at lower resolution missed variations over short distances. This new space-based view offers consistent information on pollution for cities or countries that may have limited ground-based air monitoring stations. The resulting trend maps tell a unique story for each region.

    The United States and Europe are among the largest emitters of nitrogen dioxide. Both regions also showed the most dramatic reductions between 2005 and 2014. Nitrogen dioxide has decreased from 20 to 50 percent in the United States, and by as much as 50 percent in Western Europe. Researchers concluded that the reductions are largely due to the effects of environmental regulations that require technological improvements to reduce pollution emissions from cars and power plants.

    China, the world's growing manufacturing hub, saw an increase of 20 to 50 percent in nitrogen dioxide, much of it occurring over the North China Plain. Three major Chinese metropolitan areas - Beijing, Shanghai, and the Pearl River Delta - saw nitrogen dioxide reductions of as much as 40 percent.

    The South African region encompassing Johannesburg and Pretoria has the highest nitrogen dioxide levels in the Southern Hemisphere, but the high-resolution trend map shows a complex situation playing out between the two cities and neighboring power plants and industrial areas.

    "We had seen seemingly contradictory trends over this area of industrial South Africa in previous studies," said Anne Thompson, co-author and chief scientist for atmospheric chemistry at Goddard. "Until we had this new space view, it was a mystery."

    The Johannesburg-Pretoria metro area saw decreases after new cars were required in 2008 to have better emissions controls. The heavily industrialized area just east of the cities, however, shows both decreases and increases. The decreases may be associated with fewer emissions from eight large power plants east of the cities since the decrease occurs over their locations. However, emissions increases occur from various other mining and industrial activities to the south and further east.

    In the Middle East, increased nitrogen dioxide levels since 2005 in Iraq, Kuwait and Iran likely correspond to economic growth in those countries. However, in Syria, nitrogen dioxide levels decreased since 2011, most likely because of the civil war, which has interrupted economic activity and displaced millions of people.


    Original article



  • 13 Jan 2016 2:26 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Live Science; Article: Tia Ghose


    SAN FRANCISCO — The place most likely to be struck by lightning in the world is one spot above Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, according to new data.

    Over this mountain lake, there was a lightning show an astounding 297 days out of 365 days a year, on average. Even more surprising, the lightning strikes didn't occur just over the massive lake, but at one particular spot — the point where the lake empties into the Catatumbo River, researchers said here today (Dec. 14) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

    Past research had suggested that a town in Rwanda was the most prone to lightning strikes, but that finding was based on satellite data with lower resolution, the researchers said

    Flashing lake

    To get a better picture, Rachel Albrecht and her colleagues used satellite data collected from 1998 and 2013 from NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Lightning Imaging Sensor, which provided resolution down to 0.1 degrees latitude — corresponding to roughly 7 miles (11 kilometers).

    "We can see very detailed features," Albrecht, a climatologist at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil,, said in her presentation.

    Overall, the Mitumba Mountains in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had the most flashes over that period. The mountains in Cameroon in West Africa were also home to many lightning strikes.

    However, to determine hotspots, the team focused on lightning-prone regions where at least 1,000 people lived nearby. Based on that data, Las Lagunitas, Venezuela, near Lake Maracaibo, took the top honors. The No. 2 and 3 spots went to Kabare and Kampene in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    The new hotspot title isn't surprising to researchers: As early as 1598, the poet Lope de Vega described the stunning light show on the Amazon Lake in his poem "La Dragontea." And in the 1800s, ships used the regular flashes as a natural lighthouse to guide ships safely through the lake, Albrecht said.]


    Regional differences

    Africa was the flashiest of the continents; 283 of the most lightning-prone villages, cities or towns were in Africa.

    "You can see Africa all covered with hotspots," Albrecht said.

    By contrast, people in North America are pretty unlikely to face a lightning strike. Of the top 500 most lightning-prone cities or towns, just 53 were in North America. In addition, those spots were concentrated in the Sierra Madre mountains, along the spine of Mexico, as well as in the Yucatan peninsula and the islands (such as Cuba) in the Caribbean. About 87 of the hotspots were in Asia; the most lightning-prone region was in Pakistan, near the Hindu Kush mountains. (Europe did not make the cut at all.)

    The team also found other trends in how lightning struck. During the daytime, the warm breezes pull afternoon showers — and lightning — over the beaches; however, "during the night, the thunderstorms occur over the oceans," Albrecht said.

    And mountains played a big role in the lightning strikes. Almost all of the regions with high lightning strikes were "complex terrain" or in mountainous regions, Albrecht said.


    Original article


  • 13 Jan 2016 2:02 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Mail & Guardian Africa


    HIGH in the sky, a satellite passes over the equatorial forest of west Africa, the Earth’s second largest “lung” after the Amazon.

    In Ntoum, a village about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Gabon’s capital Libreville, a giant satellite dish slowly swings into action, capturing key data on Africa’s environmental health.

    It takes in a broad sweep of 23 countries from the Sahara Desert to southern Africa, covering a 2,800-kilometre (1,700-mile)radius.

    The idea for the station, inaugurated in August, stemmed from UN climate talks in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007.

    “We realised the importance of our forests and of the importance of satellite imagery as a scientific tool,” recalled Tanguy Gahouma Bekale, special advisor to Gabonese President Ali Bongo on climate issues.

    Gahouma now also directs the Gabonese Agency for Space Studies and Observation, which goes by the French acronym AGEOS and runs the Ntoum station.

    The forested countries of the Congo Basin face enormous challenges.

    “We are responsible for the second-biggest green lung on the planet, and now we have the resources to answer these questions,” Gahouma said.


    Tracking environmental threats 

    The information AGEOS gathers is invaluable for the protection of an environment increasingly threatened by drought, maritime pollution and logging.

    Satellite data can track changes such as the size of Lake Chad, which has shrunk by 90% in the past 50 years, or that of Gabon’s forests.

    The station, built for some nine million euros ($9.5 million) with French funding, has direct access to data from NASA satellites in the United States and the Italian-French group Telespazio.

    At the Nkok reception station, around 20 mainly Gabonese scientists sift through the latest data.

    “It’s like a medical X-ray. You have to handle and interpret the satellite image correctly so that it can be intelligible to the ordinary user,” said Ghislain Moussavou, AGEOS’s scientific director.

    His team is developing a new map of Gabon’s forest cover, which currently makes up 88% of the country.

    It is mostly primary forest, criss-crossed by rivers and smaller waterways and populated by a wealth of fauna including elephants, buffalos, antelopes and apes.


    ‘Joint heritage’ 

    The government says it wants to calibrate Gabon’s economic, agricultural and mining development with the need to protect this exceptional ecosystem.

    Since different types of forest harbour different levels of carbon, careful planning regarding where to exploit timber and where to grow palms for oil, for example, can rein in carbon emissions, Moussavou said.

    Another team is poring over satellite data on the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, looking for oil spills and monitoring large-scale commercial fishing.

    Dots on a screen pinpoint the locations of ships off Gabon’s shores.

    The analysts are able to identify the vessels down to their names, registration numbers and the flags they are flying, said Dominique Rozier, a Telespazio engineer assigned to AGEOS.

    The technology is providing a welcome new tool to crack down on illegal fishing and aid in the management of fish stocks.

    AGEOS plans to share its data freely with the other countries covered by the satellite footprint.

    “The forests of the Congo basin are a heritage that we should manage jointly. It makes no sense to protect the forest in one part while the vast remaining territory is not protected,” Gahouma said.

    Talks are under way with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to determine how they can gain access to the satellite images.


    Original article

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