The surface of our Earth is always changing – sometimes it changes very quickly.

Floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, the sun, wind, waves and gravity have since the start of time shaped and reshaped the earth but human-made changes in the last six decades have eclipsed the natural forces and accelerated change in our landscapes.

What is Ground Truthing?

Ground truthing is a term used to describe the validation and calibration of data by going out in the field and making physical observations and measurements on the ground.

In the hands of scientists trained to interpret the tiniest detail, the two combined sources create valuable data that can be used to analyze change, from urban expansion to the green flush of ground cover following flooding rains.

Queensland has has an enormous storehouse of satellite imagery and other imagery, derived products and open data.

“Human activities now rival the great forces of nature in driving changes to the Earth system.”

The Anthropocene Equation by Will Steffen and Owen Gaffney

Across the planet, we humans have collaborated to survey and map the surfaces of the earth for the whole of human existence. Today part of our ground truth comes from spatial information systems.

About Spatial Sciences

Science shows us that even the earliest human inhabitants had forms of surveying and mapping. It appears to be in our DNA to survey boundaries, navigate the mountains and oceans, to document changes and create maps. So with each passing year our technology to map, measure and understand the planet, grows.

From the early days of surveying and star gazing, to today’s high-resolution images, thermal and seismic mapping, spatial sciences have been at the heart of our understanding of the world around us and our greatest discoveries.

The ability to remotely capture images of our surroundings is one of the most important inventions in our quest for documenting and comparing changes to life on Earth.

Remote sensing or imaging from space has been used to inform urban planning and environmental assessment, map disease spread and factors related to climate change. It is also used to monitor fire and flood, track clouds to help with weather prediction, observe changes to forests or farms over time and map the ocean floor.

A short history of spatial science discovery

1400 B.C. The Egyptians divide land into plots for the purpose of taxation

120 B.C. Greeks developed the first piece of surveying equipment (Diopter)

1800 A.D. Beginning of the industrial revolution. Science of Geodetic and Plane surveying were developed

In 1827 Joseph Nicephoce Niepce reportedly took the first photograph

By 1939 magazines were publishing woodcuts or lithographs with the byline “from a daguerreotype”. A photograph process developed by Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre

In 1951 Scott Archer of England developed the process of coating glass plates with sensitized silver compounds

In 1858 the first aerial photograph was taken by Gaspard Felix Tournachon over the Bievre Valley, France

In 1903 Julius Neubranner, photography enthusiast, designed and patented a breast-mounted aerial camera for carrier pigeons

In 1904 the Alfred Maul Maul Camera Rocket took an image of a North German landscape from about 1900 feet altitude

In 1906 cameras were mounted to kites by George R. Lawrence to take pictures of San Francisco

In 1959 the USA commenced its first spy satelite program. The CORONA aerial photography program ran from 1959 until 1972

In 1960 the term “remote sensing” was introduced to incorporate the growing number of ways to capture and interpret images of the earth

In 1965, William Pecora, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), put forth the idea of a satellite based remote sensing program to gather information about the planet’s natural resources

In 1970 NASA received approval to develop what would become Landsat

In 1995 President Clinton declassified 800,000 photographs from CORONA

Landsat 7 was successfully launched on April 15, 1999 and began scanning the Earth using the ETM+ (Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus) system

Launched on February 11, 2013, Landsat 8 provides repetitive acquisition of high resolution multispectral data of the Earth’s surface on a global basis

Landsat 9 has been fast-tracked for a December 2020 launch

“The Landsat program provides the longest continuous space-based record of Earth’s land in existence. Every day, Landsat satellites provide essential information to help land managers and policy makers make wise decisions about our resources and our environment.”

NASA, Landsat Science

Across the planet, scientists, industry and the public have collaborated to survey and map the surfaces of the earth. Today, part of our ground truth comes from those spatial information systems.

We use spatial information systems to compile weather reports, dispatch ambulances, locate clusters of illness or accidents, track details of agricultural conditions, make real estate transactions, manage traffic flow and a host of other activities.

Spatial science plays a crucial role in the everyday life from navigating across the country using google maps to tracking potentially catastrophic floods and fires and monitoring vegetation change and the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

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