Glob­al Change: The Earth sys­tem

Satellite twins TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X
Satel­lite twins Ter­raSAR-X and Tan­DEM-X
Image 1/5, Credit: ©DLR

Satellite twins TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X

The satel­lite twins Ter­raSAR-X and Tan­DEM-X fly in close for­ma­tion – some­times sep­a­rat­ed by on­ly a few hun­dred me­tres – and thus ac­quire da­ta for dig­i­tal el­e­va­tion mod­els.
Globale TanDEM-X Waldkarte
Glob­al Tan­DEM-X for­est map
Image 2/5, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Global TanDEM-X forest map

The glob­al Tan­DEM-X For­est/Non-For­est Map was de­rived from in­ter­fer­o­met­ric radar da­ta and is freely avail­able for sci­en­tif­ic ap­pli­ca­tions.
TanDEM-X elevation model
Tan­DEM-X el­e­va­tion mod­el – Thwait­es Glacier
Image 3/5, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

TanDEM-X elevation model – Thwaites Glacier

Tan­DEM-X el­e­va­tion mod­el from 11 June 2014 – view over the main branch of the Thwait­es Glacier in West Antarc­ti­ca.
Permafrost region Herschel Island
Per­mafrost re­gion Her­schel Is­land
Image 4/5, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Permafrost region Herschel Island

Her­schel Is­land is lo­cat­ed on the north­west­ern tip of Cana­da and is char­ac­terised by con­tin­u­ous per­mafrost. The Per­mASAR radar im­age ac­quired in Au­gust 2018 re­veals veg­e­ta­tion in the L-band fre­quen­cy range (dark green colour) in the oth­er­wise tree­less tun­dra. The thaw­ing pro­cess is al­so ev­i­dent along the coasts: In the right part of the pic­ture, bro­ken ice floes float on the sea (vi­o­let). On the coast in the left part of the im­age are traces of mud­flows where the thawed soil breaks off and is washed away.
TanDEM-X elevation model
Tan­DEM-X el­e­va­tion mod­el – Thwait­es Glacier
Image 5/5, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

TanDEM-X elevation model – Thwaites Glacier

Tan­DEM-X el­e­va­tion mod­el from 11 June 2014 – view over the main branch of the Thwait­es Glacier in West Antarc­ti­ca.

‘Global change’ is not a recently invented term – it has been used since the 1980s to describe changes in the Earth system driven or triggered by human activities. In contrast to climate change, which only deals with one specific issue, global change takes into account a larger range of processes.

Examples are global warming, changes in the composition of the atmosphere, the spread of agricultural land and the consequent loss of natural ecosystems (for example, tropical rainforests) the loss of biodiversity, ocean acidification, the melting of glaciers and parts of the polar ice caps, plastic waste in the oceans, urbanisation (since 2010 more people live in cities than in rural areas), changes in air quality and the increase in vulnerability to natural disasters. Some of these change processes are natural, but many are caused by humans. In some cases, the processes influence one another. Demographic change is a major driver of many of the processes – Earth has a population of approximately 7.5 billion, and the United Nations predicts that it will increase to more than 11 billion by 2100.

Remote sensing to assess changes

Monitoring global change is indispensable and there is no alternative method for understanding change processes, assessing their consequences and, where possible, making socio-political recommendations for action. Remote sensing is the best method for global monitoring. Earth Observation (EO) is the only technology that can perform this monitoring globally, comprehensively and with high spatial and temporal resolution and accuracy – and do this independently of political constraints.

DLR is active in Earth observation ­– both satellite-based and airborne – on a large scale. The Remote Sensing Technology Institute, the Microwaves and Radar Institute, the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, the Institute of Optical Sensor Systems and the German Remote Sensing Data Center not only address many of the research topics associated with global change but also play leading roles in the related scientific fields. For many years, DLR has been researching global change with a wide variety of missions. It develops archiving and processing technologies, devises algorithms for extracting relevant parameters from EO data and analyses the results.

Contact
  • Manuela Braun
    Com­mu­ni­ca­tion
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Strat­e­gy Space R&D
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3882
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
    Hansestraße 115
    51149 Köln
    Contact
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