Remote Sensing & Natural Hazards

Remote sensing is the science - and art - of identifying, observing, and measuring an object without coming into direct contact with it.¹ The 1960s were formative years for remote sensing when the visual interpretation of black and white aerial photography paralleled research into the use of data from new aircraft and satellite borne sensors. Remote sensing, especially of the non-photographic type, grew rapidly after the launch of the Landsat 1 satellite in 1972.² Today it's regarded as a powerful tool and useful technique for applications in numerous fields including everything related to the environment, land use, land management, geologic research and exploratory purposes, meteorology, and much more. The sites below are useful resources for this topic.

Geoscience Australia
Australia’s principal earth resource satellite ground station and data processing facility (previously known as ACRES).
Canada Centre for Remote Sensing
Canadian government’s "centre of expertise for space-based remote sensing science and technology; supporting the use of Earth observation data and information for over 30 years." Focuses on several priorities in the earth science sector of natural resource: economic opportunities, clean environment, resilience to climate change, and public safety and security.
Canada Centre for Remote Sensing – Natural Hazards
Addresses remote sensing in the context of natural disasters – flooding, hurricanes, oil spills, and geohazards – by providing tutorials, bibliographies of publications, images and glossaries.
Center for Biodiversity and Conservation & American Museum of Natural History – Remote Sensing Resources
Focusing on practical aspects of accessing, visualizing, and processing remotely sensed data, this site provides links to pursue the science and technology of remote sensing, primarily satellite imagery. Sections include basic information, Net Resources, Training and Guides.
Dartmouth Flood Observatory
Using orbital remote sensing to detect, measure, and map major river flooding world–wide, this repository of flood information archives global flood events 1985 to present (map showing the location of floods in any given year, or a table listing them, or the raw data in MapInfo files). Also offers a global map of flood hazard index, together with real time output from various flood detection tools. Site includes Surface Water Watch, which uses a satellite-based surface water monitoring system for selected river reaches and wetlands.
Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS)
Developed at the University of Maryland, FIRMS integrates remote sensing and GIS technologies to deliver MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) hotspot/fire locations to natural resource managers and other stakeholders around the World. FIRMS is funded by NASA and builds on Web Fire Mapper, an Internet based mapping tool that delivers locations of active fires in near real time.
Geoscience Australia
Contains copious information on Australia, recent earthquakes, online databases, maps, images and publications. Also detailed are research projects and main activities which address: minerals, earthquakes and natural hazards, oil and gas, geomagnetism, marine and coastal geoscience, geodesy and global positioning systems (GPS), satellite and remote sensing, topographic mapping, geoscience education programs and a geoscience library.
MCEER’s Remote Sensing Institute (RSI)
Develops and implements innovative multi-hazard techniques, strategies and products for rapidly assessing post-disaster impacts, modeling and quantifying the built environment, and monitoring recovery. Research has led to products, including: 24-48 hour post-disaster damage assessment under PDV™ program; near real-time flood, surge, hurricane, earthquake and tsunami damage assessment through remote sensing-based damage scales and advanced image analysis techniques; and forensic GPS-registered damage assessment using the in-field VIEW™ data collection and visualization system.
Michigan Technological University – Volcanoes page
Provides publicly accessible information about volcanoes, focusing on mitigation of volcanic hazards and on remote sensing of volcanoes.
NASA’s Earth Observatory – Natural Hazards
This portion of NASA's site is divided into six sections: dust and smoke, fires, floods, severe storms, volcanoes and unique imagery. Each of the first five sections offers a summary of the hazard, definitions and related sites. A world map shows locations of recent events of various hazard types; satellite images can be viewed, along with a description of the event and the physical process involved. The Unique Imagery section provides examples of remote sensing applied to track other environmental phenomena such as earthquakes and landslides.
NASA’s Landsat Program
This jointly managed program by NASA and USGS includes a vast array of information about the Earth collected from space since 1972. Landsat satellites have captured digital images for over three decades of this continent and the surrounding coastal regions. View images, educational resources, data and reference materials.
MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) is a key instrument being used aboard two NASA satellites, Terra and Aqua. Terra orbits the earth north-south crossing the equator in the morning; Aqua passes the equator south-north over the equator in the afternoon – providing a view of the entire Earth’s surface every 1-2 days. MODIS is thus a valuable tool for predicting global change to the environment. Data, data products, algorithms, and numerous images (with accompanying data and narratives) are available.
NASA’s Visible Earth
A catalog of NASA images and animations of Earth – searchable by country, U.S. state, image collection, satellite, and sensor; and offering sections on Terms of Use and FAQs.
USDA – Remote Sensing Applications Center
The Remote Sensing Applications Center (RSAC) is co-located with the US Forest Service's Geospatial Service and Technology Center in Utah. The RSAC’s objective is to provide "national assistance to agency field units in applying the most advanced geospatial technology toward improved monitoring and mapping of natural resources." The site offers various mapping and imagery pages, including: the MODIS Fire Mapping Program offering regional maps, ArcIMS maps, GIS Data (North American Fire Detection including cumulative data for each year beginning in 2001), Fire Detections, and Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity, and more.
USGS – Land Remote Sensing
The Earth's rapidly changing surface has significant repercussions for its people, economies and the environment. The USGS provides the U.S. "portal to the largest archive of remotely sensed land data in the world," for many purposes including assessing the impact of natural disasters and monitoring climate impacts and global weather changes. Various sections offered: News, Image Gallery, Resources, Publications, and more.
USGS – Our Earth as Art
This gallery of images started with the Landsat-7 satellite and most recently the Terra Satellite's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER). Global map allows user to select a continent; alternatively, an alphabetical index of images is searchable.
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) – Hurricane features
Developed under cooperative agreements with NOAA, this site includes key aspects of hurricanes, including hurricane basics, structure and tracking. Text is accompanied by graphics explaining key terms and processes. Viewer is able to track movement and behavior of Hurricanes Fran, Opal and Nora during their journey from the oceans to the land mass of North America, by viewing both visual and infra-red moving satellite images. Images are supplemented with explanations and a list of key points to be observed.