Remote sensing data as a tool to monitor and mitigate natural catastrophes resulting from anthropogenic activities: Case studies over land and water

January 31, 2023


Remote sensing data as a tool to monitor and mitigate natural catastrophes resulting from anthropogenic activities: Case studies over land and water


Elizabeth C. Atwood




München, 6. März 2018


This thesis demonstrates how remotely sensed satellite acquisitions can be used to
addresses some of the natural catastrophes resulting from anthropogenic activities.
Examples from both land and water systems are used to illustrate the breath of this
toolbox. The effects of global climate change on biological systems and the wellbeing of
everyday people are becoming less easy to ignore. In addition, our oceans are facing
multiple large-scale stressors, including microplastics as a recently recognized threat,
which place at risk the resources which a large percentage of the world’s population
depends on for their livelihood. The cause of many of these changes stem from
anthropogenic activities, but lacking understanding of complex ecosystems limits our
ability to make definite conclusions as to cause and effect. The difficulty to collect onthe-ground data sufficient enough to capture processes working over scales of hundred of
kilometers up to the entire globe is often a limitation to research. Remote sensing systems
help ameliorate this issue through providing tools to better monitor environmental
changes over large areas. The examples provided in this thesis focus on (Section I)
tropical peatland fire characteristics and burning in Southeast Asia as a significant
contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and (Section II) spread of river-based plastic
pollution in coastal ocean systems.
Section I specifically focuses on fires within Indonesia, which holds more than half
of all known peatlands in the tropical zone and are estimated to represent a carbon pool
of 82–92 gigatons. A brief description of recent development activities within Indonesia
is presented in Section I of the Introduction, followed by meteorological processes
responsible for extended drought periods in the region, and the situation of current fire
control within the country. Chapter 1 presents an example of the large improvement in
fire detection, as well as measurement of fire front characteristics, provided by a state-ofthe-art thermal remote sensing. Chapter 2 goes into detail describing how an active
satellite sensor system is able to provide much quicker and more accurate estimates of
burned area for the tropics than other existing methods dependent on passive satellite
sensor systems. Both these methods provide powerful tools for development of an
improved system to monitor fire over Indonesia. The goal of such a monitoring system
would be to reduce fire emissions from this large country, which according to global
climate models play an important role in global climate change.
Section II focuses on aquatic plastic pollution flowing from a freshwater system into
the coastal oceans. A background of the issue of plastic pollution along with the current
status of plastic debris in both oceans and inland river systems is presented in Section II
of the Introduction. Chapter 3 describes development and comparison of two different
modelling efforts to display how plastic particles being emitted from a major river are
accumulating along the nearby coastline. The goal of this work is to present how remote
sensing data could be used to in conjunction with ocean current modelling to create a
comprehensive particle tracking monitoring system.


FP-8600, V-670


Beach microplastic, river plume, FT-IR, ROMS, Landsat-8, Sentinel-2