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Earth observation


Earth observation

Earth observation is the gathering of information about planet Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems via remote sensing technologies supplemented by earth surveying techniques, encompassing the collection, analysis and presentation of data.[1] Earth observation is used to monitor and assess the status of, and changes in, the natural environment and the built environment. In recent years, Earth observation has become technologically increasingly sophisticated. It has also become more important due to the dramatic impact that modern human civilization is having on the planet Earth, and the need to minimize negative impacts along with the opportunities Earth observation provides to improve social and economic well-being.

Earth observations can include:

• numerical measurements taken by a thermometer, wind gauge, ocean buoy, altimeter or seismometer
• photos and radar or sonar images taken from ground or ocean-based instruments
• photos and radar images taken from remote-sensing satellites
• decision-support tools based on processed information, such as maps and models

Just as Earth observations consist of a wide variety of possible elements, they can be applied to a wide variety of possible uses. Some of the specific applications of Earth observations include:

forecasting weather
• tracking biodiversity and wildlife trends
• measuring land-use change (such as deforestation)
• monitoring and responding to natural disasters, including fires, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis
• managing natural resources, such as energy, freshwater and agriculture
• addressing emerging diseases and other health risks
• predicting, adapting to and mitigating climate change

The quality and quantity of Earth observations continue to mount rapidly. In addition to the ongoing launch of new remote-sensing satellites, increasingly sophisticated in-situ instruments located on the ground, on balloons and airplanes, and in rivers, lakes and oceans, are generating increasingly comprehensive, near-real time observations.

See also

An example of Earth observing sensors are the sensors in the Landsat program.


  1. ^ "International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation -- Aims and Scope". Elsevier. Retrieved 20 July 2012. 

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