Introduction to Remote Sensing eas spring 2009

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Introduction to Remote Sensing EAS Spring 2009

  • Dr. Marco Tedesco
  • Dept. Earth and Atmosp. Sciences


  • Some knowledge of trigonometry and algebra
  • Some basic physics
  • Enthusiasm and curiosity

By the end of the course you will know:

  • the basic physics and principles of remote sensing
  • the differences and similaraties of various sensors in orbit
  • Basic knowledge of data analysis
  • Assess the synergies and limitations of remote sensing for environmental analysis and other applications

Course Logistics

  • Lecture (O44):
    • Friday 10.00:12.30
  • Syllabus, schedule, lecture notes, labs, links, review sheets will be posted on the web

Office Hours

  • After the lesson or by appointment
  • Ph: 2126507027
  • Best way : still email !
  • First Essay due on February 20, 2009 (before class)
  • Midterm (March 27)
  • Project Assignment (April 10)
  • Projects discussion (April 24)
  • Project presentation (May 15)
  • Final - TBA
  • Topics we will cover:
  • Physical principles
  • How satellites and sensors work
  • Types of sensors: Optical
  • Thermal
  • Passive microwave
  • Active microwave
  • Lidar and altimetry
  • Applications: Vegetation mapping and assessment
  • Land cover/land use change
  • Water (oceans, lakes, rivers, snow/ice)
  • Soils, minerals, and geomorphology
  • Urban and societal applications
  • Polar regions and climate change

What is remote sensing?

  • “the acquisition and measurement of data/information on some property(ies) of a phenomenon, object, or material by a recording device not in physical, intimate contact with the feature(s) under surveillance; techniques involve amassing knowledge pertinent to environments by measuring force fields, electromagnetic radiation, or acoustic energy employing cameras, radiometers and scanners, lasers, radio frequency receivers, radar systems, sonar, thermal devices, seismographs, magnetometers, gravimeters, scintillometers, and other instruments”.
  • Source: NASA tutorial on remote sensing

Shorter definition

  • Remote sensing is the collection of information about an object or system without coming into direct physical contact with it
  • Art or science???

Why do we do remote sensing?

  • Unobtrusive
  • Automated
  • Useful for extreme conditions
  • Offers excellent spatial and temporal coverage
  • Provides real time or near-real time observations
  • Often cost-effective
  • Extends our senses

How are measurements made?

  • Ground-based
  • Airborne
  • Satellite

Remote Sensing Systems

  • Active Sensor - illuminates the subject from an artificial energy source
  • Passive Sensor - uses natural radiation from the Sun or Earth
  • Imaging Sensor - creates a “picture” by scanning across a linear array of detectors while the array moves through space
  • Non-imaging Sensor - measures along a transect or at a point; or uses a non-photonic approach


  • Visible, infrared, thermal, and microwave are most common

The Remote Sensing Cycle

  • Sensor
  • Data
  • Processing
  • Data
  • Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Information
  • Assessment
  • Development

The Remote Sensing Cycle

  • Sensor
  • Data
  • Processing
  • Data
  • Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Information
  • Assessment
  • Development

Some examples…

Mapping Flooding in New Orleans

  • Lidar-derived water depths superimposed over a high resolution SPOT image

Breakup of the Larsen B Ice Shelf

  • imagery from
  • January 31, 2002-
  • March 6, 2002
  • Courtesy of Ted Scambos, NSIDC
  • Non-photonic approach to monitoring changes on Earth:
  • Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment
  • GRACE measures very small changes in the Earth’s gravity over time and space

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