Earth Observation Express

EO Express

December 5, 2012 – no 57

1. Arctic Challenges and Opportunities: Monitoring the Beaufort Sea with RADARSAT-2

Canada's Arctic makes up over 40% of our landmass and is home to more than 100,000 Canadians. It is an essential part of our national identity and an area of growing importance internationally. The Government of Canada is dedicated to ensuring that the international spotlight stays focused on the challenges and opportunities facing the Arctic The Beaufort Sea is located north of the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Alaska, west of Canada's Arctic islands. The major Mackenzie River empties into the Canadian part of the sea, west of Tuktoyaktuk, which is one of the few permanent settlements on the sea shores. The sea, characterized by severe climate, is frozen over most of the year; only a narrow pass up to 100 km (62 mi) opens in August–September near its shores. The sea contains significant resources of petroleum and natural gas under its shelf, such as the Amauligak field. This RADARSAT-2 image taken on November 4, 2012 highlights new ice along the coast of the Northwest Territories, areas of open water along Banks Island as well as grey, grey-white ice and multi-year ice in the Beaufort Sea:

2. Coastal Surveillance and Monitoring: RADARSAT-2 Based Suspicious Vessel Monitoring System for Protecting Canadian Waters

Since September 2001, governments and armed forces around the world have been searching for a path forward in the greatly altered arena of national domestic security. Through the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Earth Observation Application and Development Program (EOADP), MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) is developing a Suspicious Vessel Alert (SVA) service, which uses EO technologies to address Canada's priorities and the long term needs of several Federal government departments (CCG/DFO, CBSA, TC, RCMP and DND) concerned with illegal activities in coastal and inland water regions. The service will flag maritime vessel traffic that exhibits behavior outside of regular law-abiding vessel traffic. The benefits of SVA are that it automatically and continuously monitors a selected region of responsibility and feeds suspicious vessel alerts to Marine Security Operations Centres (MSOC) operators, thereby helping them to focus their attention to a few vessels instead of the thousands on a screen. The SVA service will support critical operational needs of many government departments and agencies, especially in Canada's coastal approaches and the Arctic. The project team has recently held a working session in Halifax to review the project on-going results. For more information, please contact, and

3. Infrastructure: Demonstrating the Positive Value of Canada's Investment in Renovating Afghanistan's Irrigation System to Improve Water Distribution

Today, Afghanistan remains a country devastated by more than three decades of conflict. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) supported the first phase of the rehabilitation of the Arghandab irrigation system in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Kandahar Province has been experiencing serious shortages of water for more than a decade. The livelihoods of more than 80% of the province's population depend on irrigated agriculture served primarily by the Dahla Dam and its canals. The focus of this phase is on urgent rehabilitation work to restore water flow in the irrigation system and improve water distribution and control. Repairs to the irrigation system include reshaping and desilting more than 500 kilometres of canals, including the main canal and secondary canals; repairing water valves; and fixing gates to improve control over the flow of water from the Arghandab River into the network of canals. In order to quantitatively show the benefits of this initiative, it is important to measure resulting changes from an increase in irrigation water across the system. Collecting the evidence data using surface techniques is difficult and dangerous in this unstable region of the world. Through the CSA EOADP, MDA collected RADARSAT-2 data and developed change detection techniques to map and quantify changes of the increase in land use for agriculture in Kandahar. Change Detection maps based on RADARSAT-2 information quantifying surface cover improvement is helping CIDA demonstrate the positive value of Canada's investment in rehabilitating the Arghandab irrigation system to improve water distribution. Project partners include CSA, CIDA and MDA. For more information, please contact, and

4. The CSA chairs the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS)

On October 26, Luc Brûlé, director general, Space Utilisation at the CSA took over the CEOS chairmanship from ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) representative, during the plenary held in Bangalore. Canada is one of the founding members of this committee that coordinates civil space-borne observations of the Earth. CEOS draws together over 52 members made up of space agencies, national, and international organizations that strive to enhance international coordination and data exchange and to optimize societal benefit. During its Chairmanship, the Canadian Space Agency will place a sustained emphasis on the impact of Climate Change on Polar Regions as well as on improving Disaster Risk Management. The annual plenary will be held in Montreal in October 2013. For more information, please contact

5. Earth Observation Current Opportunity: Science and Operational Applications Research - Education International (SOAR-EI) Initiative

The CSA, in partnership with MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. - MDA Geospatial Services Inc., is implementing the SOAR-EI initiative. This initiative is intended for researchers in the international education community. In the proposal, the Principal Investigator must demonstrate interest and ability in terms of transforming RADARSAT-2 images that would lead to a useful informative value added product. The announcement of opportunity will be opened for a limited two month-period to submit a proposal until February 1, 2013. For more information about the SOAR-EI Initiative, please visit regularly EO Current Opportunities of the SOAR Program: For more information, contact

6. International Security: Ground Station Solution for US Air Force Program

MDA has signed a multi-million dollar contract with DigitalGlobe, Inc. to develop a solution to allow two of the U.S. Air Force's (USAF) mobile ground systems, called Eagle Vision, to receive and process imagery from WorldView-1 and WorldView-2 satellites. MDA's solution will enhance the USAF's ability to provide near real-time in-theatre access to essential image data, on a daily basis. MDA has previously provided multi-sensor solutions to the USAF that included data access from the RADARSAT-2 satellite since 2009, and RapidEye images since 2010. In addition to supporting homeland disaster relief missions, the system provides critical imagery information directly in-theatre. For more information, please visit:

7. Cryosphere: Change In Ice Sheet Thickness From Satellite Observations Since 1992

Earth observation satellites are key to monitoring the polar ice because they carry instruments that measure changes in the thickness of the ice sheets, fluctuations in the speed of the outlet glaciers and even small changes in Earth's gravity field caused by melting ice. After two decades of satellite observations, an international team of experts, including Canada, produced the most accurate assessment of ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland to date. This study finds that the combined rate of ice sheet melting is increasing. About two thirds of the ice loss was from Greenland, and the remainder was from Antarctica. To watch the animation and results using observations from 11 different satellite missions, please visit: To read the full article in Science, please visit:

8. Monitoring of Ecological Integrity with RADARSAT-2

Ecological integrity and environmental protection are essential to Canada's future. Through the CSA's EOADP, PCI Geomatics Inc. developed "Operational RADARSAT-2 Products for Monitoring Ecological Integrity in National Parks". For this project, PCI worked in close collaboration with Parks Canada, the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing and Environment Canada. Algorithms were provided by the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing for water extent and ice on/ off mapping. Recent advances in high-speed computing were leveraged for automating: the ingestion of fully polarimetric RADARSAT-2 data, synthetic SAR image correction, Digital Elevation Model (DEM) generation, and the production of multi-channel ortho rectified mosaics. These mosaics are useful in establishing relationships between known physical phenomena and various radar parameters and for change detection. This software enables Parks Canada to assess which radar parameters are best suited for their ecological integrity monitoring needs. For more information, please contact