During COP15, the United Nations’ International Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen from Dec. 7–18, 2009, Landsat satellite data were acknowledged as an important tool in monitoring carbon.

The philanthropic arm of Google, google.org, demonstrated a beta version of its new software—based on the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System (CLASlite) and Imazon’s SAD software—that can use Landsat and MODIS data to track where intensive deforestation is taking place. The UN has proposed providing financial incentives to developing nations that protect their forests (and thereby mitigate carbon emissions), an initiative known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries). For REDD to succeed, developing countries need to be able to accurately calculate and monitor their forest resources. Landsat and MODIS data, together with the google.org software, enable such calculations to be made by interested countries.

Elsewhere during the conference, Landsat was acknowledged as an important data source for REDD because of its long data archive, its temporal and spatial resolution, and the fact that Landsat data are free.

Additionally, the LDCM Deputy Scientist, Dr. Jeff Masek, presented a talked tilted “The World’s Forests as a Carbon Sink (and Source)” at the COP15 U.S. Center on December 12. At this same session, Dr. Marcia McNutt (Director, USGS) gave a presentation focusing on Landsat’s importance for monitoring ecosystem carbon dynamics within the U.S.

And, as part of the COP15 public outreach activities, five Landsat time series (consisting of at least 30 images total) were developed for use on the Science on a Sphere exhibit and proved to be very popular.

Further Information
Google.org: Seeing the Forest Through the Cloud [external link]
Science Daily: Breakthrough in Monitoring Tropical Deforestation Announced in Copenhagen [external link]
CLASlite [external link]
Imazon’s SAD project [external link]