Earth Observation Express

EO Express

November 10, 2011 – no 53

1. Surveillance of the Arctic: RADARSAT-2 is Supporting the Canadian Forces

On October 11 2011, MDA's Information Systems Group announced that Project Polar Epsilon has entered full operations with Canada's Department of National Defence (DND). Using space-based radar from RADARSAT-2, Polar Epsilon provides day and night, all-weather maritime surveillance capabilities over Canada's vast Arctic and deep-water ocean approaches for the DND/Canadian Forces. The ship location, heading and speed information is routinely available within five minutes from ship illumination, which improves DND's ability to act quickly in the event of a crisis at home and overseas. Polar Epsilon will enable global near real-time surveillance from space. Leveraging special-purpose RADARSAT modes which monitor extremely large areas thousands of kilometers off Canada's shores allows time to formulate appropriate responses to inbound threats to North America. This active and wide monitoring makes it extremely difficult for a vessel to approach North America without being detected by the system. For more information, please visit:

2. Measuring and Monitoring Change in Canada's North: Arctic Ice Nears Record Low

Water and ice, as dominant features of the northern landscape, are critical to sustaining life in the North - perhaps more so than any other place in Canada. They provide transportation routes, wildlife habitats, access to marine resources and recreational activities for Northerners. Dramatic changes to northern waters and ice conditions are threatening basic transportation routes, various ecosystems and the overall way of life for northern communities. A new low record could soon be set for ice in the Arctic. The past five years have seen the lowest extent of sea ice since satellite measurements began in the 1970s. Earth Observing (EO) satellites, such as RADARSAT-2, Envisat (ASAR) and Cryosat-2, make it possible to measure the amount of sea ice in inaccessible areas such as the Arctic. This year, the extent of Arctic sea ice is comparable to the low record set in 2007. During the last 30 years, satellites observing the Arctic have witnessed a halving of the minimum ice extent at the end of summer from around 8 million sq km in the early 1980s to 2007's historic minimum of just over 4 million sq km. This is a mosaic of Envisat ASAR radar images acquired between 9 and 11 September 2011 over the Arctic Ocean: The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) contributed to the development of Envisat.

3. CSA, NASA and CATHALAC Cooperation During Historical Floods in El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama

Within the framework of the international Committee on Satellite Earth Observation (CEOS), the CSA is collaborating with NASA on various projects helping to monitor, manage and respond to natural disasters. During October, several regions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama have experienced torrential rainfall associated with the passage of two tropical depressions. Rainfall amounted to more than 1250 mm in some places, resulting in major floods and landslides. Through the existing partnership with the Caribbean Satellite Disaster Pilot (CSDP), CATHALAC worked in close cooperation with CSA's Earth Observation Applications and Utilizations (EOAU) Division and with NASA to obtain EO satellite information related to the floods. CSA planned for a rapid acquisition and delivery of several RADARSAT-2 scenes over the flood affected regions of El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama. NASA provided access to EO-1 ALI imagery. Based on the analysis of the satellite data, geomatics experts at CATHALAC produced several flood maps showing the extent of the disaster in the region. In Guatemala, the flood map products are being used to coordinate the disaster response on the ground by the Presidential Secretariat for Planning (SEGEPLAN), the Ministry of the Environment & Natural Resources (MARN) and the National Coordinating Entity for Disaster Reduction (CONRED). In El Salvador the National Territorial Studies Service (SNET) and the Ministry of the Environment & Natural Resources (also called MARN) are engaged in similar activities. CATHALAC and the Vice-Chancellor of the Republic of Panama officially expressed their appreciation to CSA's EOAU for the immediate EO support. All RADARSAT products developed by CATHALAC are available on the SERVIR portal: For more information, please communicate with and

4. Earth Observation Applications for Sovereignty and Environment of the North

Through the CSA Earth Observation Application Development Program (EOADP), C-CORE (St. John's, Canada) is developing a project titled SASEN (Satellite Applications for Sovereignty and Environment of the North). The project addresses the defence, port security and marine surveillance application domains and involves the North Warning System – Property Management Team, the DND Project Polar Epsilon and the Canadian Ice Service (CIS). The objective of SASEN is to develop products and deliver services using RADARSAT-2 data that addresses the needs of DND and CIS in monitoring Canada's north (i.e. construction activity, hazard monitoring, infrastructure intrusion, and maritime surveillance). The SASEN project has recently completed its first season of remote monitoring of Arctic DEW line sites with RADARSAT-2 data (Shingle Point, Brevoort, Cape Dyer). New digital elevation maps were also created. A second season of monitoring is planned for the summer of 2012. For more information, please contact and

5. CartoSAR-Nord

As part of the Canadian Space Agency's EOADP, VIASAT GeoTechnologies of Montreal, Quebec, is collaborating with the Centre for Topographic Information - Sherbrooke (CTIs, NRCan) and the Parks Canada Agency (PCA) on generating new RADARSAT-2 data that will be used to produce information on northern regions above the 81st parallel. The first phase of the project consists of experimental acquisition of topographic map data for the creation of topographic sheets at the 1:50,000 scale using RADARSAT-2 data acquired in stereoscopic mode. After completing over 50% of phase 1, the results obtained reveal that this approach can produce quality topographical information that adequately meets CTIs topographic standards for northern regions. The second phase of the project is to produce useful information for validating the ecological integrity of northern parks from RADARSAT-2 data acquired in HH/HV polarization. Following acquisition of multi-temporal imagery in the summer of 2011 of areas located in three separate parks, work is underway to analyze and extract useful elements for validating ecological integrity such as land use, surface deposits and digital elevation models. For more information, please contact and

6. Northwest Passage: Monitoring "Ice Birthday" with RADARSAT-2

Ice in its many forms (sea ice, lake ice, river ice and icebergs) covers Canada's waters. The M'Clintock Channel is located near the Northwest Passage route in Nunavut, Canada. The channel, an arm of the Arctic Ocean, divides Victoria Island from Prince of Wales Island. The channel is 274 km long, and between 105 to 210 km wide, making it one of the largest channels in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. To view a RADARSAT-2 image of the "Ice Birthday" (i.e. October 1st: sea ice which has survived through the summer melt become second year and multi-year ice) in the M'Clintock Channel, please visit:

7. Structural Health Monitoring of Public Infrastructure With RADARSAT-2

A significant component of Canada's infrastructure network was built between the 1950s and 1970s, and critical investment towards updating these structures has been deferred because of fiscal pressures. Ageing infrastructure means increased risk to Canadians. Through the CSA EOADP, 3v Geomatics (Vancouver, BC) is utilizing RADARSAT-2 data and InSAR techniques to monitor displacement of Canadian bridges in Ottawa/Hull, Vancouver and Montreal. The project has so far acquired 153 RADARSAT-2 images over Ottawa/Hull, Vancouver and Montreal and has begun applying advanced InSAR techniques to monitor bridge infrastructure displacement. Initial bridge monitoring products have been generated from two archive stacks of data over Vancouver. The initial products were presented in Summer 2011 to the National Research Council's Institute for Research in Construction, Transport Canada's Transportation Development Centre, Federal Bridge Corporation Limited, and an expanded network of Government of Canada users. In the up-coming weeks. the project team will focus on optimizing InSAR algorithms for monitoring the structural health of bridges. Improvements to target density, target locations, and extraction of unusual motion are designed to meet users' needs during this project and for long-term monitoring programs. For more information, please contact and

8. Agro-Ecosystems Management: Frozen Soil Monitoring Based on RADARSAT-2

Snowmelt is the most important hydrological event affecting many of the agro-ecosystems of Canada. Snowmelt runoff carries soil particles along with nutrients, pesticides and other contaminants (heavy metals, pathogens, etc.) to the nearby water bodies. The consequences of such events can worsen when snowmelt or spring rainfall occurs while the soils are still frozen at depth, early in the thaw process. Through the CSA Government Related Initiative Program (GRIP), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is developing a project titled “Risk management of soil water erosion from snowmelt run-off”. The goal of this project is to test an operational pilot, integrating the new Agri-Geomatics standards, for the risk management of soil water erosion at snowmelt. The risk of soil water erosion at snowmelt will show the possible outcome of inter-layering established and potential EO products (soil moisture, land cover, crop residue and over-winter crop cover and rasterized soil properties). The production of frozen soil maps will be integrated with the production of soil moisture maps using RADARSAT-2 data. The characterization of agricultural areas at risk will improve planning and allocation of conservation practices to reduce agricultural production impacts on water. For more information, please contact and

9. Precision Farming and Earth Observation Applications: the Canadian Geographic Magazine

In Summer 2011, the Canadian Geographic magazine team requested information from the CSA and AAFC on the use of geospatial technologies, such as Earth Observation and GPS, for precision farming applications. A few examples of successful CSA GRIP applications developed by AAFC are highlighted in the October 2011 edition of the Canadian Geographic magazine:

10. First Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) Masters Competition

The winners of the first European Earth-monitoring competition – the GMES Masters – have been awarded in Munich, Germany. The winning projects exploit social media to advance Earth observation applications. The new GMES Masters competition has proved to be a success in its very first year, with over 100 proposals submitted between July and September 2011, from 17 countries. The competition was created by ESA, the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, the DLR German Aerospace Center and T-Systems, and is supported by the EU. It fosters creative product development and entrepreneurship in Europe in the GMES service fields: land, ocean, air quality, climate change and emergency response. For more information, please visit:

11. Next ESA SAR Toolbox (NEST): Now Available for Free

The latest and greatest of NEST has been released with version 4B-1.0. The NEST is a user friendly open source toolbox for reading, post-processing, analysing and visualising the large archive of data (from Level 1) from RADARSAT-2, ENVISAT, JERS-1, ALOS PALSAR, TerraSAR-X, ERS-1 & 2, Cosmo-Skymed and future Sentinel-1. NEST helps the EO community by supporting the handling of various SAR products and complimenting existing software packages. The major new functionality in NEST over BEST is an integrated viewer and orthorectification and mosaicking of SAR images. NEST is being developed by Array Systems Inc. (Toronto, Canada). For more information, please visit: