Remote Sensing: Earth or Asteroid, It’s All About Instruments

Remote sensing is the science of gathering information about objects from a distance, typically from a satellite or aircraft.  Instruments mounted on satellites collect information using different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum to characterize the size, shape, temperature, moisture, vegetative state, habitation, and other parameters of the planet’s surface.  Some instruments cast a laser down to and time its return to measure distance or detect energy that is reflected from the Earth’s surface.  Some remote sensing instruments are like cameras ...

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It’s All About Data: Science in the Information Age

Scientists are always interested in data and these days they have floods of it. Just consider that a researcher studying climate has to manage measurements from decades of satellites with different instruments and resolutions and hundreds of years of ground measurements, all totaling millions of data points. How can one person make sense of that much information?

The answer, of course, is computers. A well-designed computer system can provide easy access to a multitude of data formats and data sets, packaging ...

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Tracing the Weather: From Field to Forecast

How do you know a hurricane is coming?  Do you see the clouds rolling in?  Do you hear it on the radio, television news, or online?   There are many different methods of receiving severe weather warnings:   the Emergency Broadcast System on your television, NOAA Weather Radio, and phone apps, to name a few.  Some communities use sirens!  But how do they get the information before delivering it to you?

One place your forecast starts is from environmental Earth observation satellites.  Polar ...

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Mobile Computing: Models on the Go

Mobile computing has much more serious applications than sling shooting infuriated birds across the solar system. When it comes to observation of the Earth from satellites, there is always a need to perform ground truthing. This is when a person checks that the ground really looks like the data that has been recorded by a satellite and interpreted to mean some specific characteristic. Ground truthing is useful to calibrate an interpretation, but it is also a valuable input into data-based ...

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Computing in the Cloud

Cloud computing is all the rage these days, and for good reason. With information and files stored on common servers, accessible from anywhere with internet access, what’s not to like? When businesses move their applications to the Cloud, it becomes a little more challenging. More challenging yet: setting up satellite data in the Cloud.

For scientific data, such as that collected by NASA and NOAA satellites, it is critical that scientists across the country be able to access these applications when ...

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Picking Up the Pieces: Post-Wildfire Recovery

We all know the devastation that wildfires can cause. We see the footage of billowing smoke, exhausted firefighters, and evacuated houses. We hear the containment statistics day by day as the raging fire is brought under control. And then – it’s out. Life goes back to normal.

Or does it?

There is a whole world of work that takes place in the aftermath of a wildfire – and off the cameras – to ensure that the emergency ends with the fire. It’s ...

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Protecting Patient Privacy

If you’ve ever had to spend any time in a hospital, you probably learned more than you wanted of the ailments, concerns, and stories of the patient on the other side of the curtain, the woman in line in front of you, or the man looking for help at the nurse’s station. There is a lot of talk about keeping information private in the medical industry, but the reality is that anyone can learn all about your medical status just ...

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Climate Data Overload: Managing All That Data

Monitoring the climate is important work. Only with decades of surface temperature values and sea level measurements is it possible to accurately model climate change. Even more measurements are needed to understand current and potential impacts from shifting climates. Ocean and atmospheric CO2 levels, algal blooms, volcanic aerosols, ozone depletion, animal and plant species migration, soil moisture, glacier and polar ice coverage, rainforest deforestation, desertification, and more, all contribute to the overall assessment of climate and climate change impacts.

All of ...

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How to Find Invasive Species…from Space

A couple seedlings catch a ride on someone’s dog or pant leg, and before you know it, buckthorn is shouldering out your grazing lands, cheatgrass is increasing the frequency of wildfires by stealing moisture from native plants, or the deceptively attractive water hyacinth has covered over entire bodies of water causing flooding, displacing water fowl, and blocking sunlight from reaching the sea life below. Once an invasive species has overrun a native ecosystem, it is difficult to turn back the ...

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