Earth Observation News

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Australian / US joint project to tackle disaster from space

Australia’s top science organisation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or CSIRO, is to conduct joint research with US-based Radiant.Earth into satellite imagery and earth observation data for promoting disaster resilience and tackling critical issues in health, climate change and sustainable water management, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region.

A recent United Nations Environment Assembly or UNEA report says 41% of all disasters caused by natural hazards over the past two decades have occurred in the Asia-Pacific region.

Scientists say the partnership between Data61, Australia’s leading data innovation group, and Radiant.Earth, an ‘earth imagery platform for impact’, will mean their existing resources, networks and facilities can be used in real-time modelling, machine learning and visualisation technologies. The aim is to give the global community more timely and better evidence-based understanding of global activity and the changes needed to address critical challenges.

Adrian Turner, CSIRO’s Data61 chief executive, said the partnership with Radiant.Earth was an example of how science and technology and cross-border partnerships could deliver benefit to the global community.

Anne Hale Miglarese, Radiant.Earth’s chief executive, said: “The world is awash in Earth observation data, but most of the low- and middle-income countries are still poorly mapped and served by geospatial technologies.

“Partnering with Data61 to drive open remote sensing science will help us serve this community better, including non-profits working in global development, as well as national and regional government entities.”

Data61 was officially formed in 2016 with a mission ‘to create Australia’s data-driven future’. Radiant.Earth was launched in August last year to provide open access to geospatial data, with analytical tools ‘for global development practitioners designed to improve decision-making, and to foster entrepreneurship worldwide’. It aims to be able to ‘illuminate the earth’, allowing everywhere to be ‘seen’.

The UNEA report, Rapidly Growing Middle Class Presents Challenges and Opportunities for the Environment and Health in Asia and the Pacific, says increasing unsustainable consumption patterns have led to worsening air pollution, water scarcity and waste generation and threaten human and environmental health.

“Increased demand for fossil fuels and natural resources – extensive agriculture, palm oil and rubber plantations, aquaculture and the illegal trade in wildlife – are causing environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. “The situation is exacerbated by adverse climate change effects and an increasing number of natural disasters, which are causing devastating human and financial losses in the region. Extreme climate events are projected to become the new normal.”

Informing decision-making

Miglarese said one planned activity will include hosting open data on Radiant.Earth’s platform and a demonstration of Data61’s mapping products and tools on that platform to “support mission critical programmes, primarily in the Asia-Pacific region”.

She said Radiant.Earth’s mission was to connect people worldwide to Earth imagery, geospatial data, tools and knowledge to meet the world’s most critical challenges.

Turner said Data61 has “world-leading expertise in applying data visualisation and geospatial tools to inform decision-making around smart cities and infrastructure, including mapping renewable energy systems or demographics in different locations to inform policy decision-making”.
“In addition, with our other technologies we can predict the behaviour and spread of bushfires and have worked with local emergency services organisations and government in Australia to plan for emergencies,” he said.

A combination of approaches, including Radiant.Earth’s extensive network, would be used to improve disaster resilience among disadvantaged communities in the Asia-Pacific region in the coming months, Turner said.

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