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  • 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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    African News Agency

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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

  • 13 Jan 2016 1:41 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: DHI Gras


    A consortium led by DHI GRAS (Denmark) and including GeoVille GmbH (Austria), ITC (Netherlands) and Brockman Consult (Germany) as well as the technical universities in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Vienna (Austria) has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to carry out the 1.5 mio Euro GlobWetland Africa Project.

    African wetlands are among the most productive and biologically diverse ecosystems in the world, but they are also experiencing immense pressure from human activities, the most important being drainage for agriculture and settlement, excessive exploitation by local communities and improperly planned development activities. The future of African wetlands lies in a stronger political will to protect them, based on sound wetland policies and encouragement for community participation in their management. Since 1971, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has been the intergovernmental treaty providing the framework for national actions and international cooperation for the conservation and wise usage of wetlands. To date, 169 countries have adopted the Ramsar Convention and have designated 2,220 wetland sites of international importance for a comprehensive area of more than over  214 Million hectares.

    The European Space Agency and the Ramsar Secretariat have jointly launched GlobWetland Africa as a major initiative to provide the major actors involved in the implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in Africa (i.e. the African Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, the Ramsar regional initiatives existing in Africa, the African river basin authorities, and the international/regional conservation agencies active in Africa), with Earth Observation methods and tools to assess the conditions of wetlands under their areas of jurisdiction/study, and to better monitor their trends over time.

    GlobWetland Africa will help African authorities to make the best use of satellite-based information on wetland extent and condition for better measuring the ecological state of wetlands and hence their capacity to support biodiversity and provide ecosystem services. To this end, an open source and free-of-charge software toolbox will be developed for the end-to-end processing of a large portfolio of EO products (including wetland inventory, wetland habitat mapping, inundation regimes, water quality, mangroves mapping and river basin hydrology) and the subsequent derivation of spatial and temporal indicators on wetland status and trends, from local to basin scales. The proof-of-concept and proof-of-value of the GW-A Toolbox will be provided through a set of use case demonstrations executed over +70 pilot areas spread across the African continent. In addition, the project will also organize regional training courses for the partner organizations and ensure technical assistance during a period long enough to allow for an appropriation of the provided methods, tools and products.

    As an ultimate objective GlobWetland Africa will aim to enhance the capacity of the African stakeholders to develop their own national and regional wetland observatories, and thereby also acting as a key contributor towards the development of a Global Wetlands Observing System (GWOS).


    Original article

  • 13 Jan 2016 1:39 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Motherboard; Article:Chris Matthews


    Plantain sellers, fruit vendors and market stalls line the road as taxis and local tro tro buses dart through the busy high street. The lively centre of Koforidua, hemmed in by lush green mountains, appears to be the typical Ghanaian city.

    A short drive outside town, atop the roof of the All Nations University College (ANUC), history is in the making. Members of Ghana’s first university space science laboratory, joined by a NASA engineer, are busily installing meteorological instruments. The installation will provide the university with detailed climate readings from Koforidua and its surroundings and feed back to NASA’s global climate database in the US.

    The project is the latest achievement for the university which, along with the government and a string of other academic institutions, is helping spearhead Ghana’s fledgling space science industry. While often met with scepticism and criticism about spending, the quest to create space science programs in Ghana and across Africa is taking off.

    Those involved believe the benefits can be felt across society, with space satellites helping transform everything from agriculture practices to quashing illegal mining, while promoting space education could help encourage Ghana’s new generation of engineers and academics.

    "[Space science] can benefit Ghana as a whole,” said Julian Bennett, the university’s space science director. “It is an opportunity for us in Ghana, but it is not easy doing these things from here without the facilities available.”

    ANUC took its first tentative steps into space science in 2013 by launching a CanSat, a basic can-sized device fitted with antennas and a camera that hovers above ground tethered to a helium balloon and sends images back to ground.

    The university has since opened an amateur ground station to study satellites in orbit, made contact with the international space station, installed UHF and VHF antennas, and has plans to launch a CubeSat by 2018, Bennett explained.

    “People have this view that space science means launching a rocket or observing faraway galaxies, but in reality a lot of it is actually relating to earth and observations,” NASA instrument engineer Jon Rodriguez added.

    Nestled on the top floor in between university classrooms and engineering laboratories, the epicentre of ANUC’s space initiative is a small, unassuming room. Multiple monitors on one side make up its ground station while a prototype of its CubeSat and a white board of ideas draw your attention at the other.

    "I remember the very first day we heard a voice," said Bennett. "We were here one evening just tracking satellites… and we turned it on and we could hear a voice. [It's] not very common in our region to hear a live voice signal. We were very excited and jumping around the place."

    This excitement for space science was spurred by Ghana’s government, which in 2011 launched the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute (GSSTI). It follows in the path of several other African nations in promoting space science and looking to the final frontier to help address on-the-ground issues and local problems.

    Approaching the gates of Ghana’s Atomic Energy Commission in Accra, where two guards stand in front, I enter and pass down the long driveway and a cluster of concrete buildings hidden from the roadside come into view.

    Individuals in white coats and suits walk around the well-kept lawns as staff from the GSSTI drive me around the complex. Here, development work for the government program is underway, but is kept under wraps during my visit. GSSTI's conversion of a 32-metre satellite antenna into a telescope as part of its radio astronomy project is off limits, although GSSTI said it should be completed in June.

    In addition to unveiling a telescope and astronomy centre in collaboration with the South African government, GSSTI has designs to send its first satellite to space by 2020. The government allocated GHC$38.5 million (US$10 million) to nuclear and space science technology in 2015 as it aims to further space education and benefit from its own satellite imagery.

    A short drive outside the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission is the University of Ghana’s graduate school where many GSSTI staff are based, including Eric Aggrey, a project manager at the institute.

    “[People] always see space science as just sending man to the Moon,” he explained. “I am very much keen about human development... most of the time our teaching ends on the blackboard and now we can have people practising their skills. [That] will help us a lot."

    The government has 20 staff at its institute, while the nearby University of Ghana has started courses in astronomy, as does the Kwame Nkrumah University in Kumasi. ANUC’s initiative currently employs six people, and the school has aspirations to start academic courses in astronomy and space science. Outreach programs on space education are also happening at primary schools across the country.

    But the value of the nascent Ghanaian space program isn't just for education. At present, the nation is reliant on satellite images from foreign companies, but by having its own independent satellites, Aggrey and others believe significant benefits can be felt across society.

    “God willing, we will also go into launching our own satellite. In the next couple of years we are going to be able to clearly define our needs and design a satellite to fill our needs,” Aggrey said.

    "If we have our own or a regional satellite then we will have a common agenda if it is for agriculture, environmental degradation, storms... then we can use them to address local problems," said Godfred Frempong, chief scientist at the country’s Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI).

    “[In] Ghana, for example, illegal mining is destroying our environment," Frempong continued. "So if we have a satellite [in orbit] we can use it to pinpoint where activity is going on. That would perhaps not be activity of interest to the US, but it is of interest to us.”

    Illegal gold mining is a major problem for the West African nation, with hundreds of artisanal mines operating across the country. Although there is a dedicated government taskforce, the prospect of having a tailored satellite to monitor the landscape may prove a significant tool in the fight.

    The GSSTI’s Aggrey says satellite imaging and climate data could also help better manage natural disasters. He believes it could help prevent tragedies like that which occurred in June this year, when at least 25 people were killed in floods across the capital Accra. Climatological data can also make an impact in agriculture, and the University of Natural Resources and Energy in Ghana’s central region is another institution looking to “tap into” space and offer solutions to the country’s many farmers. The university started its space science initiative in 2012, and has set up a ground station to collect meteorological and weather information. It's scheduled to launch its inaugural satellite in September 2016.

    “[The satellite] will be for improving weather [forecasting]," explained Amos Kabo-Bah, acting head of UENR's Earth Observation Innovation Centre. "In Africa [forecasting is] a key problem because data sources are not very good. We will be contributing towards the improvement of weather prediction and supporting the farmers and agriculture.”

    With almost half of the population employed in agriculture, improving climatological data to better serve the country’s farmers could have wide-reaching benefits.

    “You can show where we have water and not, the type of crops, where certain crops grow well and it can even detect pollution in the rivers,” GSSTI’s Aggrey added. “We can design a satellite specifically for Ghana.”

    The centre, funded through central grants at a cost of GHC$1.5 million (US$390,000), has partnered with the government’s forestry, disaster management and fire services to harness satellite data.

    “We have intentions of developing the data we receive into what we call wildfire indices,” Kabo-Bah said. “We want to be able to tell in West Africa how wildfires occur and we should be able to predict them and send them to all agencies via mobiles who need the information”

    Still, one of the biggest challenges for Ghana's space industry remains addressing criticism that it's irresponsible to spend government funds on space initiatives in a country where even amid great urban development, poverty still affects 20 percent of the population, a nationwide electricity crisis continues, and corruption is rampant.

    “One of the biggest challenges is getting the average Ghanaian excited about what we are doing,” Bennett explained.

    “We are coming from a side of the world where it is a challenge getting money to buy food and clothes," Bennett added. "So why should we spend so much money which could have been used to feed so many people just to build a satellites to taking pictures. I don’t think the benefits have sunk in yet.”

    Nearby Nigeria is already benefiting from its own satellites. Its Space Research and Development Agency launched the NigeriaSat-1 in 2003 and now operates several satellites, with imaging data used to monitor oil activity in the Niger Delta, among other focuses.

    And others on the continent are following suit. Ethiopia unveiled a US$3 million space observatory in June, Kenya launched a space program in 2012, and Angola is in the process of building a satellite in partnership with a Russian consortium.

    It remains to be seen how far Ghana’s fledgling space science industry will go, but the prospects look bright as its set of space pioneers continue to develop the country’s unlikely forays into space science.

    “It is not that we can compete with NASA, but we will build the infrastructure to tap into the knowledge we have here in Ghana,” STEPRI director Frempong concluded. “The frontier of science is unlimited.”


    Original article


  • 13 Jan 2016 12:48 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: The Guardian


    Radar images of the Mauritanian desert have revealed a river stretching for more than 500km and suggest plants and wildlife once thrived there

    A radar image of the discovered paleo-rivers. Water may last have coursed through the newly discovered network’s channels 5,000 years ago.

    A radar image of the discovered paleo-rivers. Water may last have coursed through the newly discovered network’s channels 5,000 years ago. Photograph: Philippe Paillou


    A vast river network that once carried water for hundreds of miles across Western Sahara has been discovered under the parched sands of Mauritania.

    Radar images taken from a Japanese Earth observation satellite spotted the ancient river system beneath the shallow, dusty surface, apparently winding its way from more than 500km inland towards the coast.

    The buried waterway may have formed part of the proposed Tamanrasett River that is thought to have flowed across parts of Western Sahara in ancient times from sources in the southern Atlas mountains and Hoggar highlands in what is now Algeria.

    The French-led team behind the discovery believe the river carried water to the sea during the periodic humid spells that took hold in the region over the past 245,000 years. Water may last have coursed through the channels 5,000 years ago.

    The river would have helped people, plants and wildlife to thrive in what is now desert land, and would have carried nutrients crucial for marine organisms far into the sea. Were it still flowing today, the river system would rank 12th among the largest on Earth, the researchers write in the journal Nature Communications.

    Images taken from the satellite revealed that the hidden river beds aligned almost perfectly with a huge underwater canyon that extends off the coast of Mauritania into waters more than three kilometres deep. First mapped in 2003, the Cap Timiris Canyon is 2.5km wide and a kilometre deep in places.


    The outlines and the main course of the proposed Tamanrasett River are drawn in blue and grey, respectively. The newly identified river and the Cap Timiris Canyon are in dark blue on the far left of the map.

    The outlines and the main course of the proposed Tamanrasett River are drawn in blue and grey, respectively. The newly identified river and the Cap Timiris Canyon are in dark blue on the far left of the map. Photograph: Nature Communications


    Russell Wynn at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton was among the researchers who created the first 3D map of the canyon from the German Meteor research vessel. Sediment cores brought up from the canyon bottom contained fine-grained river-borne particles that suggested a massive river had first formed, and later fed into, the deep channel carved into the continental shelf.

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    “It’s a great geological detective story and it confirms more directly what we had expected. This is more compelling evidence that in the past there was a very big river system feeding into this canyon,” said Wynn, who was not involved in the latest study. “It tells us that as recently as five to six thousand years ago, the Sahara desert was a very vibrant, active river system.”

    In full flow, the river would have carried organic material from the land out into the ocean, where it sustained a rich ecosystem of filter feeders and other organisms in the canyon. But the river was destructive too, occasionally sending rapid, turbulent rushes of water and sediment down the canyon. Similar flows are still active off the coast of Taiwan today, and hold enough power to destroy submarine cables and other infrastructure.

    “People sometimes can’t get their head around climate change and how quickly it happens. Here’s an example where within just a couple of thousand years, the Sahara went from being wet and humid, with lots of sediment being transported into the canyon, to something that’s arid and dry,” Wynn said.


    Original article

  • 13 Jan 2016 12:21 PM | AARSE Admin (Administrator)

    Source: Satellite TODAY; Article: Juliet Van Wagenen


    South African airlines are seeing growth on the horizon, but the continent still operates with relatively sparse air traffic surveillance. With the South African Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS), recently signing on with Aireon to enable space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) capabilities across the Johannesburg Flight Information Region (FIR) and the Cape Town FIR, the country could gain access to more complete air traffic surveillance capabilities by 2018.

    “The implementation of space-based ADS-B will supplement the current terrestrial surveillance network in South Africa in those areas where there is either no coverage or where terrestrial systems are uneconomical to install. Furthermore space-based ADS-B will provide a backup surveillance service in the event of terrestrial surveillance system outages,” ATNS CEO Thabani Mthiyane told Via Satellite Magazine.

    Currently, terrestrial surveillance systems are limited in Africa as a result of socio-economic circumstances in the region and the relatively sparse air traffic that operates across the continent. As of now, Africa operates a small commercial fleet, with just 690 aircraft reported in 2014 according to Boeing’s Current Market Outlook (CMO). The scarcity of aircraft can increase the financial burden each operator must carry when implementing surveillance, limiting the amount of radar technology ANSPs in the region are able to install.

    “Operating radar in general is an expensive thing to do and South Africa has a pretty well established surveillance coverage in their airspace. But if you don’t have a lot of flights going through there, that’s where the traffic density kicks in, the cost per flight of operating that infrastructure becomes much higher and in the end those costs are directly linked to the rate that an ANSP charges the airlines,” Cyriel Kronenburg, vice president of aviation services at Aireon, told Via Satellite Magazine.

    Technology and cost aside, the continent has also seen issues in bulking up terrestrial surveillance as radar equipment tends to “disappear” shortly after it is installed.

    “There are areas of Africa where even if they were to put up surveillance equipment, it lasts for a very short period of time because the security of those sites is such a big problem that it just disappears,” said Kronenburg. “You put the radar in and then a couple of months later the radar is gone because it is difficult to maintain all of those sites due to the remote nature of the continent.”

    Space-based ADS-B, requiring little ground infrastructure, could offer an alternative to the terrestrial equipment that seems to be walking away and “allow surveillance coverage to be rapidly extended across the continent without the necessity of having to fund, develop, operate and maintain numerous green field terrestrial surveillance systems,” said Mthiyane.

    This increased surveillance is something the continent will need in order to increase flight efficiencies and streamline operations as the in-service fleet of aircraft grows and air traffic volumes rise. Africa is set to see delivery of 1,170 aircraft between now and 2034 as airlines look to replace aging and obsolete aircraft alongside some anticipated air traffic increases, according to the Boeing CMO.

    With the African economy expected to rise at an average 6 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year, and reports showing growth in Sub-Saharan economies that will match or surpass the global rate, airlines in the region are bulking up their fleets to accommodate, such as Ethiopia Airlines, which announced plans to double its fleet size in August 2015. While Ethiopia does not fall under the South African FIR, both Mthiyane and Kronenburg believe other countries across Africa will “follow suit” and sign on to enable space-based ADS-B in coming years so as to improve flight operations across the continent.

    “The provision of [space-based ADS-B] will improve aviation safety and operational efficiency for aircraft operators,” said Mthiyane. “The outcome will be improved conflict detection and resolution, more efficient routes, improved aircraft operating efficiencies, reductions in flight times and fuel burn with lower greenhouse gas emissions over the duration of flights. It will also create an environment where standardized operating procedures that transcend national boundaries can be introduced at a regional level and that allows for training and development of ANSP personnel in new operational concepts and technologies.”

    The issue of avionics equipage to access the ADS-B surveillance still stands, however, as equipage rates in the region are still relatively low, according to Kronenburg. The U.S. and European ADS-B equipage mandates, with a Jan. 1, 2020 deadline, will naturally push operators in Africa that touch on those regions to upgrade their aircraft. Similarly, many states in the region have already published ADS-B mandates to require equipage for ADS-B Out transponders, with the hopes that aircraft in the region will be fully equipped when the capability comes online in 2018.


    Original article

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