Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Earth Observations from Space

UM LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DEPARTMENT Geosciences

DESCRIPTION What is the Earth up to? In these times of global climate changes, it is very important to keep track of what is going on over land, the oceans as well as within various layers of the atmosphere. Scientists agree that remote sensing provides the most consistent and continuous data for the monitoring of physical as well as biological processes at local and global scales. This, over both short and long terms.

Satellite observations have been used in a number of applications including land cover monitoring, to estimate geophysical processes as well as to investigate terrain features. Sensitive instruments were launched to observe at high spatial and temporal resolutions the sea surface temperature and salinity. Radars mounted on airplanes or on low Earth orbiting platforms are continuously providing backscatter data through which altimetry and wind information is computed. All of the collected data is combined with numerical models for validation and calibration purposes as well as to help forecast the marine and atmospheric conditions.

This study-unit provides an introduction to Earth observing and monitoring systems that adopt different sensing technologies to provide a global real-time picture of what is going on around us.

Study-unit Aims:

The main goal is to provide an overview of the fundamental remote sensing techniques, the different sensors that have been launched, and the data products that are available. New parameters that can be derived from the combination of different bands within the electromagnetic spectrum, will also be discussed. The topics of satellite orbits, aircraft sensing, ground based sensing as well as space debris, will be explored.

Apart from the theoretical background, this study-unit will include hands-on sessions during which the participants will download and process acquired satellite data together with the corresponding meta-information. A number of case studies that highlight important aspects to the physical sciences, will be investigated.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

* observe and measure parameters with different sensors;
* combine earth observation data with in-situ measurements;
* know about the available data products;
* combine data channels to derive new parameters;
* become aware of how satellite data is used by decision makers and industries;
* know about planned future missions.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

* download and process satellite data;
* convert raw data to Top of Atmosphere (TOA) radiance, reflectance and temperature brightness values;
* produce composites from different wavebands to extract new knowledge;
* perform vector to raster conversions;
* compute vegetation and water quality indices;
* perform interpolation and clustering schemes on real datasets.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Elachi, Charles and Van Zyle, Jakob (2006). Introduction to the Physics and Techniques of Remote Sensing. Wiley-Interscience.
- Lillesand, Thomas M. and Kiefer, Ralph W. and Chipman, Jonathan W. (2015). Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation. Wiley.
- Seelye, Martin (2004). An Introduction to Ocean Remote Sensing. Cambridge University Press.
- Robinson, Ian S. (2010). Discovering the Ocean from Space. Springer Published in association with Praxis Pub.

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-requisite: The General Entry Requirements for the B.Sc. Geosciences area of study


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Sept. Asst Session Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 30%
Examination (1 Hour and 30 Minutes) SEM2 Yes 70%

LECTURER/S Pierre Sandre Farrugia
Charles Galdies
Adam Gauci (Co-ord.)


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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2023/4. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.