Landsat's Critical Role in Understanding Climate Change
Long-term weather patterns averaged over 30 years or more make up our climate. Human well-being—our infrastructure and agriculture—depend on a reliable climate. This reliability allows farmers to plant seeds in the spring with confidence that temperatures and rainfall will sustain crops in the coming months. It allows communities to build and maintain roads, buildings, and drainage systems best suited to local conditions. Earth’s climate is controlled by the amount of energy that flows through the atmosphere, oceans, and land. By adding heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere—primarily carbon dioxide—people are increasing the amount of energy in the Earth system that would otherwise escape to space. This increase in energy is changing Earth’s climate, and consequently, the weather patterns that people rely on are shifting. Changes in long-term weather patterns have wide-ranging impacts on ecosystems and peoples’ lives. Designed to observe land and coastal ecosystems, Landsat instruments provide an unparalleled space-based record of the impact of climate change on Earth’s landscapes, the growth and loss of carbon- storing.
An international team of researchers has combined satellite imagery and climate and ocean records to obtain the most detailed understanding yet of how the West Antarctic Ice Sheet – which contains enough ice to raise global sea level by 3.3 metres – is responding to climate change.
The world has lost 561 square miles (1,453 square kilometers) of salt marshes over the past 20 years.
New research uses Landsat observations and advanced computing to chronicle wetlands lost (and found) around the globe.
Landsat has shown that wildfires and climbing temperatures have caused a 6.7 percent decline in California tree cover since 1985.
Despite the rapid melting of ice in many parts of Antarctica during the second half of the 20th century, researchers have found that the floating ice shelves which skirt the eastern Antarctic Peninsula have undergone sustained advance over the past 20 years.