Human Health

Landsat’s Critical Role in Protecting Human Health

People have long recognized the connection between the environment and human health. Various animal and insect species from mice to mosquitoes serve as vectors that can transmit disease pathogens to people. Malaria is among the most deadly, preventable vector-borne diseases. About half of the world’s population (3.3 billion people) is at risk of contracting malaria from mosquitoes, according to the World Health Organization. Other human health problems such as cancer arise from exposure to pollutants in the environment. Finally, malnutrition can follow crop-destroying natural disasters such as drought or floods in poor regions. Landsat measurements can help decision makers pinpoint and minimize environmental health risks. With a spatial resolution of 30 meters, Landsat is well suited to mapping various components of changing landscapes, including agriculture and urbanization, that might pollute waterways. This level of detail can also show where water has accumulated in depressions to become breeding grounds for disease-carrying insect vectors. Landsat measures reflected light in both visible wavelengths and infrared wavelengths. This combination of measurements helps scientists gauge how healthy vegetation is, since growing plants generally absorb red light and reflect infrared light. Knowing the health of plants informs decision makers about cropland productivity and habitat conditions for disease-carrying insects and animals.

Vast Water Reserves Found in Drought-Prone Northern Kenya

Large underground water reserves have been found in Turkana, one of Kenya’s driest and poorest regions. The discoveries were made by the natural resources exploration firm, Radar Technologies International, during the course of a survey of groundwater conducted for the Kenyan Government on behalf of the UN. The aquifers were detected with the WATEX System, RTI’s state-of-the-art, space-based exploration technology.

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Environmental Monitoring with Public Domain Satellites

WNYC’s Leonard Lopate talks with SkyTruth president, John Amos, about using public domain satellite imagery, such as Landsat, to monitor the environment. SkyTruth uses all types of satellite imagery to monitor environmental changes and disasters; Landsat is prominently mentioned among them.

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Using Landsat 8 to Locate Fires in Indonesia

In June, air pollution over Singapore and Malaysia spiked as forests in neighboring Sumatra (Indonesia) burned. Using NASA’s daily fire alerts and official national maps, the fires were located in the vicinity of oil palm and acacia tree plantations. However, the coarse resolution of the fire alerts coupled with outdated national maps, made it hard to establish culpability.

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What is the Economic Value of Satellite Imagery?

Does remote-sensing information, such as that from Landsat and similar Earth-observing satellites, provide economic benefits to society, and can this value be estimated? Using satellite data for northeastern Iowa, U.S. Geological Survey scientists modeled the relations among land uses, agricultural production, and dynamic nitrate (NO3) contamination of aquifers.

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