WWW - World Wide Watch by Earth Observation Services

Context and objectives

The interaction between environmental change and human societies has a long and complex history. Despite a great spatial and temporal variability, a global perspective has begun to emerge in recent years to form the framework for a growing concern with regards to the human activities impact on the Earth System functioning, to the consecutive change on climate and biosphere and, finally to the various feedbacks to the human well-being. In parallel, the globalization of the world economy and the increasing awareness of global environmental issues also call for much more efficient information flows from objective record as obtained by Earth Observation (EO) to the public diffusion.

Recent advances in EO capabilities, in particular the impact of the very high resolution imagery, as well as the recent success of Google Earth have put the satellite remote sensing at the forefront of the global providers of land surface information. More specifically, the MODIS/MERIS medium resolution capabilities along with the 1-km SPOT VEGETATION instruments recently deliver several emblematic global products such as the GLC2000 land cover map, the Global Burnt Area 2000, the MODIS Fire product, the MODIS Rapid Response, the forthcoming GLOBCARBON and GLOBCOVER products.

Belgium has decided to play proactive role in the development of operational EO capabilities to deliver comprehensive relevant, high-quality information about the Earth System in the long term. The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative jointly supported by ESA and the European Union is a very dynamic framework supporting the development of an independent European operational monitoring capacity for the environment and civil security at regional and global level.

Based on significant experiences of the partners in the framework of GMES and to prepare the operational Belgian contribution to GMES Service Element programme, UCL-Geomatics and VITO have defined a program to design, develop, produce and maintain a suite of dedicated EO products for near-real time global monitoring. The present project corresponds to the phase 1 of this program which is defined to reply to information needs of different key global end-users.

UCL-Geomatics successfully tested a product prototyping method making the end-user actively involved in an iterative way to progressively tune the product in the framework of a pre-operational phase. In addition to its operational capabilities at global scale, VITO recently demonstrated the telecommunication efficiency to regularly disseminate added-value products directly to end-user on an operational basis. VITO has also acquired a multi-sensor expertise allowing combining different sensors to insure the service delivery independently of any specific EO source.

For Belgium this project is a great opportunity to build a partnership where complementary strong areas of competence of Belgian EO partners are combined, to tighten, consolidate and strengthen Belgian expertise in the European medium resolution EO scene. Furthermore, the continuous link between the end-users, the research lab and a production entity should allow for innovation or fast improvement of products and services over time.

The first phase of the project aims:

  1. to design and prototype an added-value products for monitoring Desert Locust Habitat and to design an addedvalue products for monitoring Agriculture Phenology, both based on the specific demands of the well identified end-users communities;
  2. to assess the actual niche of the proposed products with regards to the existing one to properly communicate about these;
  3. to operationally deliver the Desert Locust product to a well defined and active user community in near-real time STEREO I I Project N° SR/00/116– WWW Ini t i al repor t 6 and with the relevant recurrent time interval over a long and continuous time-period;
  4. to incorporate the Desert Locust product in the FAO/ECLO operational decision support systems.

From a methodological point of view, the project has two transversal objectives:

  1. to validate an original product prototyping approach based on close and iterative interaction between the reference user and the research lab allowing to test and tune the final product during a significant pre-operational period thanks to a high-speed very flexible processing facilities available in the research lab; and
  2. to develop a new conceptual approach to design multi-sensor products transparent for the end-users with regards to the EO data sources.

Further objectives of this project and of this partnership are to help Belgium, by joining research and production forces at the
national level, to be recognized as an international centre of competence in the global land monitoring scene.

Project outcome

The proposed methodology is based on a new compositing algorithm that guarantees products with a very high spatial and temporal consistency. Furthermore, the protocol involves firstly a multispectral approach and secondly a colorimetric analysis of the signal. This approach offers a better discrimination of the vegetation than other methods. The Desert Locust product is based on coarse and medium spatial resolution time-series (SPOT VEGETATION and MODIS sensors).

The originality of the proposed approach regards to the existing products is partially based on:

  • The production of parameters which are "land cov er specific" (GLOBCOVER based), i.e. that can be adjusted according to the land cover type in order to produce an information which is optimized (adjustment of the frequency according to the phenology and the regional conditions) and more relevant for the users (production of an information which is always in agreement with the temporal behaviour of the target).
  • A multi-sensors approach (VEGETATION,MODIS) which always guaranties to the users the best information that is possible to produce without thinking to combine different sources of information.
  • The exploitation of the multispectral information and not only one vegetation index as it is usually done. This is possible thanks to the new compositing methodology called "the mean compositing" allowing the production of spatially and temporally consistent information in all wavelengths.
  • A user-friendly product, which ensures the production of information easily accessible and understandable, in a format which is adapted to the specificities of the user infrastructure (availability of the information in several formats).