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Could Remote Sensing Help to Adapt to Climate Change?
Blog...Could Remote Sensing Help to Adapt to Climate Change?

Could Remote Sensing Help to Adapt to Climate Change?

Ecology News
camera lense on couch
In this article, we’ll discuss what remote sensing is, how it could help us to adapt to climate change, and also why it may be a more overrated tool in the midst of global warming than you might think.
Ecology News
camera lense on couch

In 2023, there are many new gadgets being developed to help with climate change – such as new environmental monitoring satellites, carbon capture and storage technology, and even remote sensing.

Seeking to mitigate the effects of climate change is more important than ever before, seeing as natural disasters like hurricanes, droughts, and tornadoes continue to put cities in financial peril and deplete their available resources for survival – but could remote sensing really help us fully assimilate to these negative consequences of climate change?

In this article, we’ll discuss what remote sensing is, how it could help us to adapt to climate change, and also why it may be a more overrated tool in the midst of global warming than you might think.

What is remote sensing?

Remote sensing refers to the process of overviewing the various characteristics of a specific region by measuring the emitted radiation from a distance, most often from an aircraft or a satellite – such as the satellites in the GOSAT series.

Any device that collects data from far away can be considered as remote sensing.

If remote sensing is still difficult to understand, think of it this way – when you go to the dentist and get an x-ray of your teeth, your dentist never actually penetrates into your gums to see bone that is beneath the surface of your jaw. Instead, your dentist is gathering information about your teeth without direct contact – just as an airplane or a ship is never making direct contact with the Earth, the bottom of the ocean, or whatever it is trying to monitor. 

👉 This is the heart of remote sensing – to gather information without the need to make physical contact with the data point in question. 

Examples of remote sensing include:

  • Aircrafts equipped with cameras to take detailed images of large regions across Earth
  • Satellite cameras that can visually map ocean temperature changes over time 
  • Ships with sonar systems that can help to derive images of the ocean floor
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👉 The main selling point of remote sensing is that it allows us to collect visual data without needing to travel far – sonar systems and cameras on aircrafts or satellites help to provide us with new viewpoints on Earth that are otherwise inaccessible. 

Remote sensing has allowed us to retrieve images of our planet that we otherwise would not have, such as: 

  • Gathering information for ongoing forest fires, which allow us to see how far and wide they may grow – and can either predict future forest fires or help with developing an appropriate evaluation plan.
  • Tracking cloud patterns to determine upcoming storms, weather changes, and air quality. 
  • Monitoring the urbanization of a city or farm over numerous years to create new scientific hypotheses on how human activity impacts the environment. 

Learning more about the ocean floor – which can lead to new discoveries on how mountain ranges and landmarks such as the Grand Canyon were developed.

view of earth from space

How, when, and why was remote sensing created?

Remote sensing was first technically developed when photography was first invented back in 1826, as remote sensing could not exist without cameras or photos the way it does today.

However, the term remote sensing specifically wasn’t mentioned until the late 1950s – predominantly once space exploration rose to prominence.

👉 Did you know that geographer for the U.S. Office of Naval Research, Evelyn Pruitt, was the first person to use the term,”remote sensing”?

Ultimately, remote sensing was something that was created over time as opposed to a single moment of invention. As a result, remote sensing is used in many of our daily lives and activities without noticing – such as with our house alarms and back-up cameras in our cars.

youtube screenshot
Remote sensing was developed in mind to allow for both passive and active data collection.

Think about it this way: before alarm systems in your house, you would have no way to detect a potential intruder – but with remote sensing, you can keep tabs on your house even when you are miles away. This, alongside many other modern technologies we use today, wouldn’t be possible without the invention of remote sensing.

👉 There are three types of remote sensing platforms – which include airborne, ground based, 

and satellite sensors. 

Here’s the breakdown of different types of remote sensing:

  • Airborne Remote Sensing: This type of remote sensing refers to any device that collects information while airborne – such as a satellite, airplane, or even a drone.
  • Ground Based Remote Sensing: This type of remote sensing refers to any devices that mount themselves to the ground before retrieving data – such as a crane, tower, or a tripod.
  • Satellite Remote Sensing: This type of remote sensing specifically refers to satellites sent up to outerspace for environmental monitoring – such as the GOSAT series.
white drone in forest

Why might remote sensing prove useful in adapting to climate change?

There are many reasons why remote sensing could prove itself as an indispensable tool as mankind battles the negative effects of climate change. 

First off, remote sensing allows us to see what we can’t with our own eyes from Earth – such as tracking weather patterns or natural disasters like wildfires. If it weren’t for remote sensing technologies, we would have no way of being able to track the current trajectory of an upcoming storm or ongoing wildfire. 

Remote sensing can help with adapting to climate change as it can assist us in gathering information for upcoming weather patterns from a bird’s eye view.

Here are a few other ways remote sensing could help humans to adapt to climate change:

  • Global Thermostat: Remote sensing can help us to monitor the world’s temperature in real time – such as with thermal sensors on satellites. This provides indispensable data on global warming trends, and can ultimately help scientists understand how human activity impacts the planet while policymakers seek to develop new and improved climate policy. 
  • Oceanography: Sonar systems or satellites with radar altimeters and radiometers can help collect data on our oceans, such as ocean or sea surface temperature, rising sea levels, and ocean circulation like AMOC. This added intel can help us to better understand how coastal communities might be impacted by climate change and erratic weather.
  • Sea Level Rise: As this continues to be one of the most worrisome effects of climate change, with cities like Miami expected to be 60% underwater by 2060 – remote sensing can help us to better understand rising sea levels and how they will continue to impact coastal communities and their respective infrastructure.
  • Agriculture: Climate change has continued to take a toll on this pivotal industry, but remote sensing might be able to help, seeing as it can help to monitor factors that could affect farming – such as soil moisture, water sources, land degradation, and potential droughts
  • Glaciers: As massive glaciers melt, such as the Himalayan Glaciers – they can cause a plethora of problems such as contributing to rising sea levels and depleting millions of freshwater. Remote sensing can help keep an eye on massive glaciers and how they move or change in size overtime.
  • Floods & Droughts: Remote sensing can also help to anticipate floods and droughts by collecting data on soil moisture, precipitation, and vegetation. This is because satellite remote sensing can detect which areas are most prone to flooding and potential droughts, and ultimately  – can help these areas with their natural disaster preparedness.

👉 Ultimately, remote sensing can help us to monitor critical components of our environment that are being impacted by climate change – and inspire us to develop new action plans to mitigate these negative impacts.

smoky forest

Why could remote sensing be unhelpful while fighting climate change?

Even though remote sensing is a good tool to use for tracking potential natural disasters or monitoring ongoing environmental crises such as melting glaciers and shifting agricultural patterns – it is important to remember that remote sensing is not a solution to climate change.

Remote sensing could prove deleterious to mankind as an addiction to developing new sensory technologies could take priority over creating impactful actions to mitigate ongoing climate change itself.

The problem with remote sensing is that it could provide us with the false pretense that everything is okay. For instance, even if there is a hurricane looming near – many may view it as no issue as remote sensing has allowed us to predict its arrival and potential impact. 

However, this is far from the case – as things like hurricanes alone continue to cause damage to infrastructure, elicit economic stress, and even instill eco-anxiety in those who live through natural disasters often.

👉 Remote sensing may not provide the incentive needed for both individuals and large businesses to actively work towards reducing their emissions or implementing sustainable habits that can prevent these negative effects of climate change from occurring in the first place.

stop light sign sinking in water

How should we use remote sensing to our greatest advantage?

Despite the fact that remote sensing could deter humans from finding viable solutions to climate change, we should still aim to use remote sensing as a way to optimize our efforts against the consequences of rising global temperatures.

Moving towards the future, we should aim to utilize the opportunities presented with remote sensing in ways that we haven’t yet before – such as by using airborne drone sensing for more localized data collection. 

👉 Think about how surveys are conducted – often times, researchers set out to collect data from specific age groups to gain more specific insight. The same can go for localized remote sensing, as it can help us to have a more precise understanding of how climate change is impacting those areas.

New technologies like this are already being developed, such as with improved environmental satellites like the GOSAT-GW planned to launch in 2024 – which will monitor greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere and global water cycles to allow scientists, researchers, and policymakers to learn more about climate change.

Overall, remote sensing is a vital tool that can help us in our daily lives – from backing up our cars to foreshadowing a potential storm. However, it’s important to remember that while remote sensing can help us adapt to the ongoing effects of climate change – it doesn’t mean we should stop working towards emissions reductions or greater sustainability.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about how remote sensing could help to adapt to climate change has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

It can be overwhelming to keep up with things such as remote sensing and how they could impact your business, but don’t worry – Greenly is here to help. Click here to schedule a demo to see how Greenly can help you find ways to ensure your company is up-to-date with all things climate change.

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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