Landsat Thermal Sensor Will Aid Water Management

by Matt Ball on February 7, 2012

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission‘s (LDCM) thermal infrared sensor (TIRS) has been completed and shipped to Orbital Sciences for integration into the rest of the satellite. This TIRS sensor will measure and monitor water evaporation and transpiration over Earth’s land surface by measuring radiation emitted in two thermal bands. The sensor resolution is 100 meters, which will allow for a field-by-field analysis for agriculture applications.

This new sensor delivery just happens to correspond with an update to the CropScape geospatial data exploration tool from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The satellite-derived land cover images on this web-based map illustrate the changing face of U.S. agriculture, including its response to extreme weather events, such as flooding and drought. With the new thermal sensor, the amount and resolution of the data on water and agriculture will increase tremendously.

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission is in the final phase of design and fabrication, with NASA and the USGS aiming for a December 2012 launch. The value of the 38-year long Landsat land imaging data set increases with each passing day as its consistent measurements provide a calibrated view into the past to detect change, and predict outcomes.

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