Earth Observation for Everyone
As 2017 starts to draw to a close, we return to one of our earlier (and all too neglected) features, Map of the Day. However, our latest entry isn’t just a map for one day, but one where you can observe changes over time, using satellite imagery and earth observation data at Canadian start up – Remote Pixel. We are in a fortunate position currently where satellite data from such sources as LANDSAT is much more readily available for public consumption.
Remote Pixel is one of many to take advantage of this new environment, using the flexibility of Mapbox and Leaflet to create several web mapping tools to help users simply display, download and analyse satellite imagery all over the world, with a long archive of data to compare with. There are many tools and projects at Remote Pixel to access and play with this data, but I’m going to focus on ‘Disaster Watch’ in particular.
Remote sensing, but not so remote…
To clarify, this isn’t just simple satellite imagery like one might find on Google Earth; this is earth observation which goes beyond this. Satellite data picks up multi-banded data, which captures frequencies of radiation which go beyond the visible human spectrum. There are many useful resources which go further into ‘remote sensing’, but to cut a long story short, this gives us greater insight into the environment below – such as urban-rural segmentation, vegetation analysis or forest burn – something which normal imagery cannot always reveal. This is powerful, but gaining these further insights can take time through normal image processing.
However, Remote Pixel have been very helpful and saved time by providing these analyses as built in templates to easily access this insight. The ‘Disaster Watch’ tool provides a web map which displays a live point feed of recent environmental events, such as wildfires, volcanic eruptions, or avalanches. Clicking on these points provides information on such event and clicking ‘search images’ will provide a catalogue of latest satellite imagery to load onto the map and play around with filters, and compare change over time. For example (see first image), one can observe the impacts of ‘forest burn’ from the recent California wildfires from special filtering. Furthermore, there are direct links to some tiles to download.
It is an intuitive tool which helps promote earth observation analysis to your armchair and see the impacts of environmental events. The opening up of satellite data accessibility in recent times is a positive development, as it promotes creation of intuitive web tools such as these, and in turn promotes accessibility of earth imagery analysis and observation of environmental change to a wider audience. So enjoy playing and exploring the earth, as seen from above.