Importance of freely available Earth Observation data

A very interesting article by two Canadian researchers: Michael A. Wulder and Nicholas C. Coops was published in Nature recently (Satellites: Make Earth observations open access, 2nd Sept 2014) calling for a unified strategy (Governments, Space Agencies, EO Scientific community) for land monitoring. Often the availability of and access to suitable data will determine the outcome of a scientific EO study (to an extent! – the method, processing and algorithms used and analysis are critical but the type of input data will usually dictate these and what is achievable overall). The sheer volume of EO data being routinely acquired means that usually data is available but at a cost that is prohibitive for national agencies to use routinely (e.g. in operational landcover mapping, forest disturbance mapping). Since 2008, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has provided free and open access to its Landsat archive and regular data from the European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel satellites (Sentinel-1A data available in ~November of this year after its cal/val phase) mark a paradigm shift towards “a new era of open-access satellite data”. Coupled with greater computing power and algorithmic improvements, significant improvements can be made in realising operational EO-based environmental products in the near future.  

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