Real-time satellite data for natural resources management
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CTA. 2004. Real-time satellite data for natural resources management. ICT Update Issue 20. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Permanent link to cite or share this item: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/57686
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John Stephenson and Jim Williams explain how weather satellite data reception systems are making remote sensing data more accessible for a variety of local applications.
Adequate natural resource management hinges on timely information about both current conditions as well as knowledge of potential future developments. For example, flood water storage planning is a dynamic process, changing daily, weekly or monthly, depending on weather conditions and how ecosystems respond to climate variability. Remote sensing data, when available, can assist resource planners to anticipate such changes. Until now, however, natural resource management agencies in many ACP countries did not have direct access to satellite data. For several years, Somalia´s Meteorological Services Agency used locally received Meteosat data to estimate rainfall over neighbouring Ethiopia, and to predict the timing of floods on the upper reaches of the Juba and Shebelli river systems. When they reach Somalia, these floods are a major source of irrigation water, but they often arrive ´out of the blue´. The flood waters could be used more effectively if local farmers and irrigation managers have advance knowledge of likely flows. The agency also used satellite-derived rainfall data to monitor potential breeding areas of the African weaverbird (Quelea quelea), an agricultural pest that affects cereal crop production throughout sub-Saharan Africa. These birds only breed when there is sufficient rain, and the grass grows long enough for them to weave into nests. Unfortunately, despite significant progress, these water management and pest control programmes have been put on hold due to the political instability in the country. The system in Somalia was one of the first effective agrometeorological applications of locally received weather satellite data in Africa. How does it work? The signals from the Meteosat geostationary satellites and the NOAA series of low earth orbit satellites are picked up by a dish or horn antenna, amplified by a low noise amplifier and then passed on to a receiver for filtering and processing. The data extracted from the receiver is then transferred to a computer using specially developed interface cards. Once sufficient local data have been captured in real time, it can be processed in many different ways to generate information products of interest for many different applications. As satellite receivers are becoming more affordable, and computers ever more powerful, remote sensing technology is now accessible for a variety of local applications in developing countries. The best examples of the use of satellite remote sensing for natural resource management come from India. The Indian space programme was predicated on the recognized need for improvements in national natural resource management, and the satellites were designed accordingly. India now has the most effective space programme in the world, in terms of its impact on the quality of life. The central government works with the 36 state governments on many aspects of natural resource management. One of the most impressive initiatives is the nationwide community watershed management programme. Satellites not only assist planning activities, but are also used to monitor progress in the many ongoing community-based disaster rehabilitation schemes, and to evaluate the impact of projects in terms of improved crop production. This transparent and accountable development process has so impressed the funders (the effect of their investments was obvious from the imagery, and its sustainability could be monitored year by year) that it has enabled the prototype schemes to be reproduced with confidence throughout the subcontinent. A similar setup could enable the same process in Africa, and could help in the efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty as part of the Millennium Development Goals. The problems are organizational rather than technical. There are signs of joined-up thinking, however, with greater international coordination in space programmes for development purposes. All the major space nations are now working together as a group, and are moving towards the development of a comprehensive, coordinated and sustained a target=_new href=http://www.earthobservations.org Group on Earth Observation (GEO) system. In Europe, the EU-sponsored Preparation for the Use of MSG in Africa (PUMA) project is providing the national meteorological services in 53 African states with an updated Meteosat receiver. The EU is also working with the European Space Agency (ESA) on a combined approach called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, which includes an African component. As a follow-up to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the ESA also launched the a target=_new href=http://earth.esa.int/tiger TIGER Initiative, which aims to provide appropriate satellite data to support water resource managers in Africa. In future, once the problem of access to data is resolved, resource managers in ACP countries can at last focus their efforts on using the information wisely, as the Indians have done. mailto:email@example.com Professor John Stephenson, director of Bradford University Remote Sensing (BURS) Ltd, UK, and mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Dr. Jim Williams, former scientist with the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), UK, have played a pioneering role in the development and application of satellite data reception systems in developing countries. For more information, visit a target=_new href="http://www.burs.demon.co.uk www.burs.demon.co.uk (currently under construction).
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