Mars is a major focus of U.S. and international space programs with five spacecraft currently operational and actively collecting data: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.
The innermost planet of our solar system is being investigated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission. The Astrogeology Science Center provides the Integrated Software for Imagers and Spectrometers (ISIS) software used to process the data from the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS). Astrogeology is leading the international effort to combine the laser altimeter data and stereo images to produce the highest quality global topographic map of Mercury. This is the first time
Earth’s natural satellite—the Moon—is currently under observation by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. The Astrogeology science team is involved in a number of studies featuring the LRO Camera, which is obtaining hundreds of terabytes of high-resolution (0.5–2 m/pixel) images of the Moon’s surface; the DIVINER infrared imaging spectrometer; and the Mini-RF radar system, which produces 7.5 m/pixel views inside the permanently shadowed polar craters where ice may be found. Controlled mosaics of the optical and radar images produced by Astrogeology are the lar
The NASA Cassini spacecraft will continue investigating Saturn and its rings and moons until the mission is terminated by vaporization of the spacecraft in Saturn’s atmosphere in September 2017. The Astrogeology Program provides key software (ISIS, Integrated Software for Imagers and Spectrometers) to the Cassini mission for analysis of data from the multiple onboard imagers and radar system. Astrogeology’s research has largely focused on Titan and Enceladus.
Astrogeology maintains the highest quality data on the brightness of the Moon via the Lunar Calibration Program, which provides essential data for many satellite missions. These data are used to calibrate many spaceborne Earth observing instruments, including the OLI (Operational Land Imager) on Landsat 8, and the NASA flagship remote sensing instruments: VIIRS (the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) on Suomi NPP and MODIS (the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) on Terra and Aqua. Lunar calibration is planned by virtually all future operational satellite miss
Climate and Land Cover Change
USGS biologist Sean Murphy presented preliminary results at The Oregon Chapter of The Wildlife Society meeting in Bend, Oregon, on February 5–7. Murphy’s talk, titled “Predicting and managing climate change impacts on semiarid land, wetlands, shorebirds, and their prey,” described an effort by USGS and other collaborators to model climate change effects on shorebirds using remote sensing, legacy data, and ground-level monitoring.
The Upper San Pedro River in Arizona is one of the few remaining undammed rivers that maintains a vibrant riparian ecosystem in the southwestern United States. However, its riparian forest is threatened by diminishing groundwater and surface water inputs due to changes in watershed characteristics such as changes in riparian and upland vegetation, or human activities such as regional groundwater pumping. Satellite vegetation indices were used to quantify the green leaf density of the groundwater-dependent riparian forest from 1984 to 2012.
On the San Carlos Apache Reservation in east-central Arizona, fire suppression and other factors have led to overstocked forests and woodland encroachment into grasslands. In an effort to retain traditional relationships with the land, the San Carlos Apache Tribe is working to restore the land to approximate pre-European settlement conditions using a combination of fire and mechanical thinning. An accurate forest biomass baseline is important for future carbon balance projections.
The USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) is producing a seamless vegetation map of the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The UMESC has been conducting vegetation mapping for the National Park Service (NPS) for over a decade. These highly accurate and highly detailed vegetation maps are used by individual parks to manage lands and conduct research. High-resolution (0.1525 m or better) true-color and color infrared digital imagery collected during peak biomass is evaluated using a 3D digitizing platform to classify
The USGS, working in partnership with the Federal interagency Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics (MRLC) Consortium, has completed the production of the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) 2011 for the conterminous United States. The NLCD serves as the definitive Landsat-based, 30-meter pixel resolution, land cover database for the Nation. NLCD 2011 products derived from nominal 2011 Landsat data depict 16 classes of land cover, define the degree of surface imperviousness in urban areas, and quantify the amount of tree canopy cover.