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Category: Science Brief

News Archive

Oyster Prospecting with Landsat 8

In the first study of its kind, researchers from the University of Maine have demonstrated that Landsat 8 satellite data can be used to find locations where oysters farms should thrive.

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Landsat 8 Used to Pinpoint Shipwrecks

Nearshore shipwrecks can leave telltale sediment plumes at the sea’s surface that reveal their location. Using Landsat 8 data, researchers have detected plumes extending as far as 4 kilometers (~2.5 miles) downstream from shallow shipwreck sites. This discovery demonstrates that Landsat and Landsat-like satellites can be used to locate the watery graves of coastal shipwrecks.

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Despite Warming, Landsat Reveals Decadal Slowdowns on Greenland Ice Sheet

Ice sheets are in perpetual motion, making their way downslope like a river. If the amount of snow that an ice sheet accumulates does not keep pace with its loss to the sea, sea level will rise. As temperatures have climbed, positive feedback loops have led to an accelerated loss of ice sheet sections that touch the sea, but in an unexpected twist to the global warming saga, scientists have just discovered a negative feedback loop that is slowing down the Greenland Ice Sheet sections that end on land—a sliver of good news for sea-level rise.

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A forest by any other name? Semantics, carbon implications, and solutions

Using the world’s first global, Landsat-based 30-meter resolution map of tree cover, researchers found that ambiguity of the term “forest” has the potential to create 13 percent discrepancies in forest area maps. While ecologists have long understood the complexity comprised by the concept of “forest”, and while geographers have called for the term to be more uniformly defined across monitoring entities, no one had quantified the scope of the problem.

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Improved Forest Disturbance Monitoring via an Algorithm Ensemble

Forest resource managers, natural resource policy makers, and global change scientists need comprehensive, consistent, and up-to-date information on trends in forest cover and condition. This information is essential for understanding carbon budgets, predicting fire behavior, quantifying biodiversity, and hydrologic modeling.

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A Satellite View of River Width

Hydrologists from the University of North Carolina have come up with an innovative way to estimate the size of rivers via satellite images. Combing through data acquired by Landsat satellites, George Allen and Tamlin Pavelsky have compiled a new database of river widths for North America.

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Turkish Glaciers Shrink By Half

Researchers and citizens have known for some time that Turkey’s glaciers are shrinking. Now scientists have calculated the losses and found that more than half of the ice cover in this mountainous country has vanished since the 1970s.

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Landsat Ghostbusters—How the Landsat Calibration Team Caught a Ghost

Shortly after the launch of Landsat 8, the calibration team noticed something strange: bright and dark stripes, or “banding” was showing up across certain images collected by the satellite’s Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS). Prelaunch testing of the sensor had indicated that highly accurate measurements (within 1 Kelvin) with little “noise” could be expected—what was going on?

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Mapping South Asia's Mangroves

Along the sea’s edge in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, the dense coastal population lives largely in symbiosis with the region’s mangrove forests.
Mangroves—a vast network of intertidal trees and shrubs with their characteristic tangle of above ground roots—give safety, sustenance, and spectacle to coastal denizens in a multitude of ways. Namely, by stabilizing shorelines, safeguarding water quality, influencing stable microclimates, controlling flooding, and providing transportation, forest products, hunting and fishing grounds, and recreation and protecting people and property from storms.

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Keeping Cal

The Landsat calibration team published a number of papers in the SPIE Conference Volume 9218: Earth Observing Systems XIX. Our calibration team (or cal team) is a group of scientists and engineers who work together to ensure the scientific quality of Landsat data—they are the people who make it possible for us to compare Landsat images day-to-day and year-to-year. Simply said, they make change-over-time research possible.

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A Call for Open Access Earth Observations

This month in Nature, an emphatic plea to make more Earth satellite imagery free was made by Michael Wulder, a senior research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service and Landsat Science Team member; along with Nicholas Coops, a remote sensing professor at the University of British Columbia.

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Eastern U.S. a Carbon Sink from 2001-2005

The U.S. Geological Survey released a report this week assessing terrestrial and aquatic greenhouse gas fluxes for the Eastern U.S., specifically focusing on carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. An area of 3.05 million square kilometers east of the Mississippi was assessed.

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Landsat and the Sea

One year ago today, Landsat 8 blasted off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base and arched over the shimmering Pacific on its way into orbit. Landsat 8’s main sensor, the Operational Land Imager (OLI), is the latest model in the long line of Landsat Earth-looking radiometers—sensors that have been measuring visible and infrared light reflected from our planet since 1972.

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Explaining Beached Kelp

Have you ever walked along a California coast and wondered about all of the kelp washed-up on shore? In winter when storms are more frequent,

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