Remote Sensing In Crete!

North coast of Crete, showing the city of Chania in the centre. Image acquired by Landsat-8 on the 15th January 2018. Data courtesy of NASA.

Last week I attended the 38th Annual European Association of Remote Sensing Laboratories (EARSeL) Symposium, which took place on the Greek island of Crete. The theme of the Symposium was Earth Observation Supporting Sustainability Research and it ran alongside the 3rd Joint EARSeL and NASA Land Use Land Cover Workshop.

Both events took place in the city of Chania on the north coast of Crete. The city is a combination of an old town based around the Venetian harbour, together with more modern buildings which have grown up around it. The old town is a maze of small streets and interesting buildings and is mostly pedestrianised; I explored quite a bit of it looking for my hotel on the first day, whilst dragging my suitcase in mid thirty temperatures! However, it also has a great range of restaurants offering their own interpretations of grilled octopus – which became my go to dinner dish!

The Symposium began with two keynotes:

  • Petri Pellikka from the University of Helsinki presented ‘Remote Sensing of Land Cover Change impacts to Ecosystem Services and Environmental Sustainability in Africa’, focused on the Taita Hills in Kenya where forests are being converted to croplands. The forests capture water from fog, whereas the crops don’t, meaning that there is a much greater level of rainfall within the forest versus outside and this loss negatively impacts on local ecosystems.
  • Dr Nektarios Chrysoulakis from the Foundation for Research and Technology, Hellas presented ‘Urban Energy Budget from Space: towards supporting Sustainable Urban Planning.’ This focused on the Urban Thematic Exploitation Platform (TEP) and showed the use of downscaled MODIS & Sentinel-3 images, and highlighted the importance of the night-time urban heat island effect.

I also spent time in the sessions on Radar Remote Sensing; Oceans, Coastal Zones and Inland Waters; and Thermal Remote Sessions. I was particularly interested in the ‘Online Global Land Surface Temperature Estimation’ by Parastatidis et al, which looked at the systematic generation and accuracy of the Landsat Land Surface Temperature products and found that accuracy varied depending on the emissivity source and the land cover.

The joint Land Use and Land Cover workshop which had four sessions:

  • Synergy of remote sensing technologies for land use change monitoring;
  • Role of Earth observations within the Water-Energy-food nexus;
  • Social and behavioural aspects of land use supported by remote sensing; and
  • Advances and outlook in the processing and analysis of remotely sensed data

As this was a joint workshop with NASA, each session began with two keynotes; one from Europe and one from the USA. This was then followed by three minute lightning pitches for all the posters in the session, and then an opportunity for discussion and debate around each of the posters.  I presented a poster on our Ugandan Drought and Flood Mitigation Service: Development Approach and Application of Earth Observation Data in the second session.

Some of the highlights of the workshop sessions were:

  • David Roy’s keynote on the ‘Synergy of Landsat and Sentinel-2 data for change detection’ which highlighted the issues of pre-processing when integrating these two datasets including nadir BRDF-adjustment, georeferencing and the challenge of finding a reliable cloud shadow mask. It then showed the importance of spatial resolution and increased frequency for fire detection.
  • Patrick Holstert’s keynote highlighted that despite begin a Greek island in the middle of Mediterranean, it was difficult to get cloud free images of Crete as for six months of the year half the island is covered in cloud. We explored cloud free images for the the UK in last week’s blog.
  • Ariance de Bremond’s keynote which highlighted the importance of moving from simply mapping land cover and land use to understanding what is happening within the environment, the causes of any changes and the implication/consequence of these changes.

These were just some of my highlights. There were a lot more thought-provoking presentations, posters and discussions with colleagues. I found Chania to be a lovely city and it was enjoyable to discussing remote sensing in Greece. I’m looking forward to the 39th Symposium already!!

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