Humanitarianism from 'Landsat Imagery: A Unique Resource'

Science Center Objects

Landsat satellites provide high-quality, multi-spectral imagery of the surface of the Earth. These moderate-resolution, remotely sensed images are not just pictures, but contain many layers of data collected at different points along the visible and invisible light spectrum. 

Successful water wells drilled in Eastern Ouaddai, Chad, located based on information provided by Landsat images processed in th

Successful water wells drilled in Eastern Ouaddai, Chad, located based on information provided by Landsat images processed in the WATEX model. Courtesy of Radar Technologies International.

Radar Technologies International: Water Explorations in Darfur 

Amid the Darfur Crisis in 2004, more than 250,000 Sudanese refugees were forced to relocate to the desert landscape of eastern Chad. In a disaster situation, medical treatment and basic necessities become priorities for survival. Above all, the greatest need for survival was water. It is estimated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR; 2008) that one person requires a minimum of 15 liters of water per day for basic survival. In the arid desert climate of eastern Chad, water is not readily available or easily accessible, leaving many refugees below the UNHCR standard for minimum daily water requirement (European Space Agency, 2013).

 

 

.Images showing flooding in Victoria, Australia, in 2007. Courtesy of Geoscience Australia. (km, kilometers)

.Images showing flooding in Victoria, Australia, in 2007. Courtesy of Geoscience Australia. (km, kilometers)

Flood Extent and Disaster Monitoring, Australia

In Australia, between 1852 and 2011, at least 951 people were killed by floods, another 1,326 were injured, and the cost of damage reached nearly $5 billion dollars. More recently, the southeast Queensland floods during the 2010–11 season left much devastation, destroying 75 percent of the banana crop and, as a result, inflating banana prices (Carbone and Hanson, 2013). Floods have devastated communities and negatively impacted the regional and national economies in Australia. Landsat imagery, in conjunction with MODIS and several other commercially acquired satellites, has been used to map flood extent to provide situational-awareness information to emergency services in order to save lives and mitigate economic impact.

 

National Flood Risk Information Program, Australia

On July 1, 2012, Australia commenced the National Flood Risk Information Program (NFRIP), which includes mapping of flood extents from the entire historical archive of Landsat data over Australia (National Flood Information Portal, 2013). The Australian Government’s Natural Disaster Insurance Review highlighted the lack of consistency across the country in the way flood-risk information was collected and made available to users. It also recognized the need for consumers to be aware of the natural disaster risks they may face, as well as the benefits of making flood-risk information more readily accessible. The aim of the NFRIP is to improve the quality, availability and accessibility of flood-risk information across Australia, and raise community awareness of flood risks (Medhavy Thankappan, Geoscience Australia, written commun., 2013).

 

 

Landsat image of Coro, Falcon area, Venezuela. Courtesy of Exploration Signatures.

Landsat image of Coro, Falcon area, Venezuela. Courtesy of Exploration Signatures.

 

 

Exploration Signatures: Water Exploration in Venezuela

In 1995, Exploration Signatures (then the Geologic & Hydrologic Division of Earth Satellite Corporation) used Landsat ETM+ imagery to complete water exploration work in Venezuela’s Falcón State. The project was funded through a guarantee from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, administered by Harza Engineering Company, and performed for HidroFalcón C.A., the Venezuelan state water agency.

 

 

 

 

An OpenStreetMap interface for the Ebola outbreak in western Africa, 2014. Courtesy of Mapbox.

An OpenStreetMap interface for the Ebola outbreak in western Africa, 2014. Courtesy of Mapbox.

 

 

Mapbox: Innovating with Landsat

Mapbox* is a cloud-based map platform startup that creates custom maps with open source tools. The team at Mapbox consists of over fifty cartographers, data analysts and software engineers, located in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, California. One of the open-source tools used by Mapbox is Landsat imagery. The company has a satellite team consisting of five employees dedicated to projects that use Landsat imagery to develop new products and enhance existing imagery.