Eye in the Sky: Monitoring Earth from Space (GEOSCI 118)

What is this picture?

The Grand Canyon, as seen by a satellite. Click here for full resolution.

Why is it shown here?

To advertise a course in Geoscience: Eye in the Sky: Monitoring the Earth by Satellite

About?

  • Fundamentals of satellite imagery applied to the earth sciences.
  • Basics of image interpretation.
  • Multitemporal data.
  • Resolution and uncertainty.
  • Existing and emerging technologies.
  • Orbits, wavelengths, and satellites.
  • Socio-economic impact of remotely-sensed data

How much work is it?

Just 3 lectures a week for 5 weeks beginning after Spring Break.

It is an 5-week modular class beginning week 10 of Spring Semester.

Any prerequisites?

No.

Open to freshmen?

Yes.

Instructor?

Kurt Feigl, Professor

Textbook

Johnston, A. K., and National Air and Space Museum. (2004), Earth from space : Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 272 p. pp., Firefly Books, Buffalo, N.Y. [$18 new; $3 used at Amazon]

Curator at the Smithsonian Institute, Andrew Johnston sheds light on the planet via an array of beautiful and enlightening satellite images. The book explains in exquisite detail how such images are utilized by scientists to learn about the earth’s dynamic environment. The Washington Post named this text one of the best coffee table books of 2004.

Wanna see more images?

Click on the web interactive web site for the text book here.

Can you tell me more?

Here are some of the topics we will discuss:

  • Current abilities, future potential, and limiting factors of satellite imagery.
  • The importance of “ground truth” before drawing conclusions from remotely-sensed data.
  • Examples of satellite imagery enabling earth science.
  • How to view, manipulate, and interpret a satellite image.
  • The global view. Scale and resolution. Tools of the trade.
  • Interpreting satellite images as displays of quantitative information.
  • Weather satellites.
  • Multi-temporal imagery.
  • Digital Elevation Models.
  • Radar Altimetry.
  • Dynamic Earth.
  • Change detection.
  • Pixel tracking.
  • Radar Interferometry.
  • Societal, political, and economic impact of satellite imagery.

Why should I take this course? Will it help me get a job?

Many jobs that study the Earth, its environment and anthropogenic impact on them, use remotely sensed imagery acquired by satellite. Applications range from scientific (e.g., measuring tectonic plates as they move) to the practical (“how do I get back to where I parked my car?”). If you want to apply these techniques (or supervise others to do so) in tomorrow’s world, you should understand the basic technical underpinnings of satellite imagery and tools like Google Earth. In particular, you should learn the limits of each type of imagery as well as the importance of corroborating “ground-truth” for drawing solid conclusions.

Don’t other courses teach this stuff?

Yes, but not at the elementary level. GEOSCI 118 emphasizes the application of remotely-sensed satellite data for monitoring and understanding geophysical processes, whereas introductory courses in Geography (120, 127, 139, 170) consider the “historical, cultural, political, and technological contexts of how maps are made and used”.

Syllabus

Learning Objectives

  • To view examples of satellite imagery enabling earth science
  • To view and interpret a satellite image
  • To understand the current abilities, future potential, and limiting factors of satellite imagery
  • To recognize the importance of “ground truth” before drawing conclusions from remotely-sensed data
  • To develop critical thinking skills, particularly in spatial reasoning about satellite data

How will students be evaluated?

  • Class participation via i-clickers
  • One in-class midterm exam, short answers and multiple-choice
  • Final exam

Schedule

  • Five-week modular course beginning week midway through Spring Semester
  • Class will meet 11:00 to 11:50 AM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
  • First meeting is planned for 11:00 AM Monday April 3rd, 2017.
  • Complete schedule, including reading assignments: Schedule2017a

List of Lecture Topics

Lecture Number Topic
1 Introduction: the global view. Scale and resolution.
2 Tools of the trade. Satellites. Wavelength. Orbits.
3 Interpreting optical images acquired by satellite
4 Living Planet (storms, reefs, coastlines, erosion)
5 Weather satellites. Multi-temporal imagery
6 Water and Ice (Flooding & tracking sea ice)
7 Interpreting radar images acquired by satellite
8 MID-TERM EXAM IN CLASS
9 Structure of the Land (mountains, folds, faults, craters)
10 Digital Elevation Models and Altimetry (Tibetan Plateau, El Nino)
11 The Human Presence (ozone, pollution, climate change)
12 The Human Presence (cities)
13 Dynamic Earth (earthquakes, volcanos)
14 Monitoring Earth by detecting changes over time
15 Societal; political; and economic
impact of satellite imagery.
FINAL EXAM

Grading:

Letter grades of A, AB, B, BC, C, D, or F will be based on a curve that determines the students’ relative standing with respect to other students. The overall curve and an absolute standard of achievement, as judged by the professor, will both be factors in grade allocation. Letter grades assigned to the mid-term test have only relative significance; the numerical score is what will be figured into the course final grade. The weighting will be as follows:

Class Participation: An interactive device registered with TopHat is required.
30%
Midterm Exam: One 50-minute mid-term exam is scheduled as indicated on the schedule. The questions will include true/false, multiple choice and short answer types. A short essay question may be included. Bring #2 pencils and UW ID card to the exam for scantron forms. No books, notes or electronics may be used during the exam. No books, notes or electronics may be used during the exam. A make-up exam will not be provided unless requested by e-mail to the instructor at least 24 hours in advance and approved. 30%
Final Exam: The 2-hour final exam will be about half on the new material since the mid-term and half cumulative overview. The questions will include true/false, multiple choice and short answer types. A short essay question may be included. Bring #2 pencils and UW ID card to the exam for scantron forms. No books, notes or electronics may be used during the exam. No books, notes or electronics may be used during the exam. A make-up exam will not be provided unless requested by e-mail to the instructor at least 24 hours in advance and approved. 40%
Total: 1 credit

100%

 

How to request an accommodation

Students who are requesting any accommodations on the basis of disability should contact me within the first week of the course. Please schedule this office appointment by e-mail or see me during my office hour. To maintain the confidentiality of your request, please do not approach me before or after class to discuss your accommodation needs.

Your success is important to me. During the office appointment, we can work together to develop strategies for adapting assignments to meet both your needs and the requirements of the course. The McBurney Disability Resource Center (263-2741) provides resources for students with disabilities. You will need to provide documentation of disability to them in order to receive official university services and accommodations. In addition, I will expect to receive a paper or electronic copy of your McBurney accommodations statement.

I look forward to working with you to meet your learning goals. – Prof. K. Feigl