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Special UNISPACE III volume
Marsteller, Deborah

International Archives of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Vol. XXXII Part 7C2, UNISPACF. Ill, Vienna. 1999
“Remote Sensing for the Detection, Monitoring
and Mitigation of Natural Disasters”
2:30-5:30 pm, 22 July 1999, VIC Room B
Vienna, Austria
After more than two years of activity, a set of overarching
conclusions and recommendations have been agreed. These
recommendations draw heavily upon and should serve to
reinforce the experiences and findings of other studies and
demonstration projects. For example, the Strategic Alliances
and Resources Corporation has published a Disaster
Management User Requirements Study, March 1998, for the
Canadian Space Agency and the Disaster Information Task
Force lias published a Global Disaster Information Network
Report, November 1997. A Disaster Management Support
Project Progress Report was published in 1998.
There is a visible willingness within the disaster management
community to give due consideration to new space
technologies that will improve their operations. Nonethe
less, because of the difficulty in introducing new, unproven
teclinology and the concern for complicating their operations,
there is a general reluctance to quickly assimilate new
technologies and information into their programs.
It will be up to the space sector to proactively respond to this
general receptiveness. They will need to invest effort into
familiarizing themselves with the needs of the disaster
management users by promoting mutual understanding and
dialogue. They will need to create appropriate tools and
perform compelling demonstrations.
Timeliness, cost, accessibility, ease of use, reliability,
repeatability, and demonstrated operational capability are the
most important criteria affecting the implementation of space
systems and data into disaster management programs. For
disaster warning and response, rapid response is most
Rapid satellite tasking for Earth observation missions and fast
processing and delivery of data are very important as well.
An integrated approach to applications is needed, e.g. to
integrate non-space and space information and to quickly
move integrated products in a seamless fashion.
It is recommended that the Disaster Management Support
Project focus on refining recommendations for current and
future systems; considering the improved use of satellite data
for application to additional hazard types; supporting outreach
to users; involving seivice providers; and promoting
development of information tools. The Project and each
Hazard team should reach out for broader geographic and
disciplinary representation, especially to specific users to
determine their information needs. Describing what space-
based observations can and cannot do must be as accurate as
Other recommendations include smoothing the transition from
research to operations; raising the issue of data policy to
improve and assure access, timeliness, and affordability of
data, eg. high-resolution data; moving toward a more
integrated approach to mission planning; and mirroring
essential information to provide more timely access to tliis
Hazard Team Recommendations
In tliis section, findings and preliminary reconunendations for
selected hazards are summarized. These will be refined and
formalized over the next year.
Drought. Satellite data are used for drought prediction,
monitoring, impact assessment and response. Droughts
depend on vegetation state and weather/climate conditions.
For large scale and global vegetation applications, low-
resolution visible and infrared radiometers continue to be the
“workhorse”. For smaller scale vegetation applications, some
medium-resolution radiometers are utilized routinely. Others
should be more widely used. Data from weather satellites are
used for monitoring weather and climate conditions, but there
should be increased use of microwave radiometers. Data from
new satellite systems should be utilized, as their data streams
become accessible.
Earthquake. Current satellite technologies are applicable in a
limited way in earthquake hazards and more work is needed to
fill temporal and spatial requirements. The availability of 1 or
2 meter spatial resolution satellite imageiy will make a
profound contribution to eartliquake damage assessment and
disaster response if adequate temporal resolution can be
achieved. There is little hope that space techniques - or
anything else - can help in effective earthquake prediction.
Earthquake disaster mitigation is the most important element
of earthquake disaster management and the area in wliich
satellite observations can make - and are making - their
biggest contributions. Generally, these contributions are to
basic understanding although there are areas - and will be
areas - of more direct application.
A wide range of types of satellite data is used to support the
different phases of fire management-risk assessment,
detection monitoring, and damage assessment. Data types are
different when analyzing fuel, weather, or topography and
different for various geographical scales.
Global data coverage from several current civilian satellites is
needed for such purposes as fire scar and biomass binning