Write short notes on: 1. Remote Sensing; 2. GIS

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1. Remote Sensing:

We perceive the surrounding world through our five senses. Some senses (touch and taste3) require contact of our sensing organs with the objects. However, we acquire much information about our surrounding through the senses of sight and hearing which do not require close contact between the sensing organs and the external objects. In another word, we are performing Remote Sensing all the time.

Generally, Remote sensing refers to the activities of recording/observing/perceiving (sensing) objects or events at far away (remote) places. In remote sensing, the sensors are not in direct contact with the objects or events being observed. The information needs a physical carrier to travel from the 2objects/events to the sensors through an intervening medium. The electromagnetic radiation is normally used as an information carrier in remote sensing. The output of a remote sensing system is usually an image representing the scene being observed. A further step of image analysis and interpretation is required in order to extract useful information from the image. The human visual system is an example of a remote sensing system in this general sense.

1In a more restricted sense, remote sensing usually refers to the technology of acquiring information about the earth’s surface (land and ocean) and atmosphere using sensors onboard airborne (aircraft, balloons) or spaceborne (satellites, space shuttles) platforms.

Satellite Remote Sensing1

These remote sensing satellites are equipped with sensors looking down to the earth. They are the “eyes in the sky” constantly observing the earth as they go round in predictable orbits.

Effects of Atmosphere

In satellite remote sensing of the earth, the sensors are looking through a layer of atmosphere separating the sensors from the Earth’s surface being observed. Hence, it is essential to understand the effects of atmosphere on the electromagnetic radiation travelling from the Earth to the sensor through the atmosphere. The atmospheric constituents cause wavelength dependent absorption and scattering of radiation. These effects degrade the quality of images. Some of the atmospheric effects can be corrected before the images are subjected to further analysis and interpretation.

1A consequence of atmospheric absorption is that certain wavelength bands in the electromagnetic spectrum are strongly absorbed and effectively blocked by the atmosphere. The wavelength regions in the electromagnetic spectrum usable for remote sensing are determined by their ability to penetrate atmosphere. These regions are known as the atmospheric transmission windows. Remote sensing systems are often designed to operate within one or more of the atmospheric windows. These windows exist in the microwave region, some wavelength bands in the infrared, the entire visible region and part of the near ultraviolet regions. Although the atmosphere is practically transparent to x-rays and gamma rays, these radiations are not normally used in remote sensing of the earth.

Optical and Infrared Remote Sensing

1In Optical Remote Sensing, optical sensors detect solar radiation reflected or scattered from the earth, forming images resembling photographs taken by a camera high up in space. The wavelength region usually extends from the visible and near infrared (commonly abbreviated as VNIR) to the short-wave infrared (SWIR).

Different materials such as water, soil, vegetation, buildings and roads reflect visible and infrared light in different ways. They have different colours and brightness when seen under the sun. The interpretation of optical images requires the knowledge of the spectral reflectance signatures of the various materials (natural or man-made) covering the surface of the earth.

There are also infrared sensors measuring the thermal infrared radiation emitted from the earth, from which the land or sea surface temperature can be derived.

Microwave Remote Sensing

There are some remote sensing satellites which carry passive or active microwave sensors. The active sensors emit pulses of microwave radiation to illuminate the areas to be imaged. Images of the earth surface are formed by measuring the microwave energy scattered by the ground or sea back to the sensors. These satellites carry their own “flashlight” emitting microwaves to illuminate their targets. The images can thus be acquired day and night. Microwaves have an additional advantage as they can penetrate clouds. Images can be acquired even when there are clouds covering the earth surface.1

A microwave imaging system which can produce high resolution image of the Earth is the synthetic aperture radar (SAR). The intensity in a SAR image depends on the amount of microwave backscattered by the target and received by the SAR antenna. Since the physical mechanisms responsible for this backscatter is different for microwave, compared to visible/infrared radiation, the interpretation of SAR images requires the knowledge of how microwaves interact with the targets.

Remote Sensing Images

1Remote sensing images are normally in the form of digital images. In order to extract useful information from the images, image processing techniques may be employed to enhance the image to help visual interpretation, and to correct or restore the image if the image has been subjected to geometric distortion, blurring or degradation by other factors. There are many image analysis techniques available and the methods used depend on the requirements of the specific problem concerned. In many cases, image segmentation and classification algorithms are used to delineate different areas in an image into thematic classes. The resulting product is a thematic map of the study area. This thematic map can be combined with other databases of the test area for further analysis and utilization.

2. GIS (geographic information system)

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface. GIS can show many different kinds of data on one map. This enables people to more easily see, analyze, and understand patterns and relationships.

With GIS technology, people can compare the locations of different things in order to discover how they relate to each other. For example, using GIS, the same map could include sites that produce pollution, such as gas stations, and sites that are sensitive to pollution, such as wetlands. Such a map would help people determine which wetlands are most at risk.

GIS can use any information that includes location. The location can be expressed in many different ways, such as latitude and longitude, address, or ZIP code. Many different types of information can be compared and contrasted using GIS. The system can include data about people, such as population, income, or education level. It can include information about the land, such as the location of streams, different kinds of vegetation, and different kinds of soil. It can include information about the sites of factories, farms, and schools, or storm drains, roads, and electric power lines.

Data and GIS

Data in many different forms can be entered into GIS. Data that are already in map form can be included in GIS. This includes such information as the location of rivers and roads, hills and valleys. Digital, or computerized, data can also be entered into GIS. An example of this kind of information is data collected by satellites that show land use—the location of farms, towns, or forests. GIS can also include data in table form, such as population information. GIS technology allows all these different types of information, no matter their source or original format, to be overlaid on top of one another on a single map.

Putting information into GIS is called data capture. Data that are already in digital form, such as images taken by satellites and most tables, can simply be uploaded into GIS. Maps must be scanned, or converted into digital information.

GIS must make the information from all the various maps and sources align, so they fit together. One reason this is necessary is because maps have different scales. A scale is the relationship between the distance on a map and the actual distance on Earth. GIS combines the information from different sources in such a way that it all has the same scale.

Often, GIS must also manipulate the data because different maps have different projections. A projection is the method of transferring information from Earth’s curved surface to a flat piece of paper or computer screen. No projection can copy the reality of Earth’s curved surface perfectly. Different types of projections accomplish this task in different ways, but all result in some distortion. To transfer a curved, three-dimensional shape onto a flat surface inevitably requires stretching some parts and squeezing other parts. A world map can show either the correct sizes of countries or their correct shapes, but it can’t do both. GIS takes data from maps that were made using different projections and combines them so all the information can be displayed using one common projection.

GIS Maps

Once all of the desired data have been entered into a GIS system, they can be combined to produce a wide variety of individual maps, depending on which data layers are included. For instance, using GIS technology, many kinds of information can be shown about a single city. Maps can be produced that relate such information as average income, book sales, and voting patterns. Any GIS data layer can be added or subtracted to the same map.

GIS maps can be used to show information about number and density. For example, GIS can be used to show how many doctors there are in different areas compared with the population. They can also show what is near what, such as which homes and businesses are in areas prone to flooding.

With GIS technology, researchers can also look at change over time. They can use satellite data to study topics such as how much of the Polar Regions are covered in ice. A police department can study changes in crime data to help determine where to assign officers.

GIS often contains a large variety of data that do not appear in an onscreen or printed map. GIS technology sometimes allows users to access this information. A person can point to a spot on a computerized map to find other information stored in the GIS about that location. For example, a user might click on a school to find how many students are enrolled, how many students there are per teacher, or what sports facilities the school has.

GIS systems are often used to produce three-dimensional images. This is useful, for example, to geologists studying faults.

GIS technology makes updating maps much easier. Updated data can simply be added to the existing GIS program. A new map can then be printed or displayed on screen. This skips the traditional process of drawing a map, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

People working in many different fields use GIS technology. Many businesses use GIS to help them determine where to locate a new store. Biologists use GIS to track animal migration patterns. City officials use GIS to help plan their response in the case of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane. GIS maps can show these officials what neighborhoods are most in danger, where to locate shelters, and what routes people should take to reach safety. Scientists use GIS to compare population growth to resources such as drinking water, or to try to determine a region’s future needs for public services like parking, roads, and electricity. There is no limit to the kind of information that can be analyzed using GIS technology.

 

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