The USGS Astrogeology Science Center is directly involved in all current and planned National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and European Space Agency (ESA) missions to Mars. This involvement includes developing and testing several future instruments, operating active spacecraft, conducting science research, and archiving historical data. In 2015, the primary activity focused on the Mars Science Laboratory mission's Curiosity rover and the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft.
The USGS Astrogeology Science Center provides cartographic software and other support to both the Dawn and New Horizons missions exploring the dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto, respectively. This software is essential for putting remote sensing data into a consistent cartographic framework, allowing the information from different instruments to be combined. The ability to do such data fusion is the basis for many advanced data analysis methods used to test models and hypotheses.
Permanently shadowed craters near the poles of the Moon may contain substantial ice deposits. The USGS is supporting the search for this ice by producing high precision cartographic products from data collected by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). These products include high-resolution maps of the polar regions in visible wavelengths and photogrammetrically corrected radar maps.
Climate and Land Cover Change
The latest edition of the National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD 2011) for Alaska was released in 2015. For Alaska, this database is designed to provide 10-year cyclical updating of the State's land cover and associated changes. Based on Landsat imagery taken in 2011, the data describe the land cover of each 30 m cell of land in Alaska and identify which cells have changed since 2001.
Remote sensing glacier mapping approaches have typically required a substantial time investment from image analysts to select appropriate cloud-free scenes, set threshold values for image classification, and correct misclassified pixels. This requirement has limited the areas where inventories of Landsat-derived glacier area are available, and it has limited the frequency of updates.
In 2015, NASA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the USGS released a collection of higher resolution (i.e., more detailed) elevation datasets for most of the globe. The broad availability of more detailed elevation data through the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) will improve baseline information that is crucial to investigating the impacts of climate change.
Until recently, Landsat imagery has not been commonly used to investigate the link between long-term climate trends, extreme weather events, and vegetation response, in part because of the on-site computational limitations associated with compiling an imagery time series suitable for short- and long-term trend analyses.
Many Arctic species synchronize their migrations and reproductive cycles with the timing of spring onset to optimize the availability of food resources. Rapid warming in the Arctic could advance spring onset dates and decouple such synchronicity for species unable to change their reproductive schedules accordingly.
Previous research has shown that coastal Louisiana has undergone a net change in wetland area of approximately –1,883 square miles from 1932 to 2010. This net change in land area amounts to a decrease of about 25% of the 1932 land area. Over a 1984–2010 observation period, coastal Louisiana wetlands were disappearing at an average rate equivalent to one American football field every hour. This study uses remotely sensed imagery to research the occurrence and rates of wetland change as a result of natural and anthropogenic factors.
The USGS Western Geographic Science Center’s project for Remote Sensing Studies of Phenology-Carbon-Climate Relations (PCCR) uses satellite- and ground-based remote sensing to address one of the most pressing and challenging environmental questions confronting society today: how human activities, persistent drought, and climate change are affecting the condition and sustainability of land ecosystems, ecosystem services, and land resources in the southwestern United States and beyond.