The NASA Land-Cover and Land- Use Change Progam
e-Newsletter Issue 1: September 2015


The NASA Land-Cover and Land-Use Change (LCLUC) Program Office would like to welcome you to the first issue of our e-Newsletter. The goal of the e-Newsletter is to raise awareness about the program, promote the research undertaken by our Science Team and to keep the scientific community informed of new developments in the LCLUC program. Land-use change is the most immediate and visible aspect of global change and one that is getting increased attention. The NASA LCLUC research program is focused on quantifying those changes, primarily by the use of satellite observations; understanding the processes of change and the impact on both physical and social systems, by using space and airborne observations as well as ground-based surveys; and on exploring scenarios of future land-use change with numerical models. Although much of land-use change happens locally, the program is focused on changes with significant impact at regional to global scales. Recent topical emphases include urban growth, hydrological impacts of land-use change, land use change in mountainous regions and agricultural and industrial forestry changes. Our regional focus is currently shifting to South/Southeast Asia, which is experiencing extensive and rapid land-use change, fueled in part by rapid economic development and population growth. Land use has an integral role to play in climate-change mitigation and sustainability science. This inherently interdisciplinary program has a unique role within the NASA's Earth Science since it combines physical and social sciences. The nature and impact of land-use change raises critical policy issues in many countries and as such, much of the research undertaken in this program has societal relevance. The program management is always interested in improving the program and would welcome your comments to make LCLUC-e-Newsletter as informative and engaging as possible. If you are not on our mailing list join today and keep abreast of advances in Land-Use and Land-Cover Change Science

- Garik Gutman, Program Manager and Chris Justice, Program Scientist.

Research Highlights
Urbanization, a major driver of global change, profoundly impacts our physical and social world, for example, altering carbon cycling and climate. Understanding these consequences for better scientific insights and effective decision-making unarguably requires accurate information on urban extent and its spatial distributions. With support from NASA Land Cover and Land Use Change (LCLUC) Program, this webinar presented the research methods and findings from the project, Understanding and Simulating Global Urban Expansion in the Context of Climate Change. Read more

Amongst the mega cities of the world, Beijing has undergone transformative changes with an extreme urbanization rate. In the face of double-digit economic growth concentrated in the urban areas in Eastern China, Beijing and other cities have struggled to address the economic growth consequences such as rapid motorization driven by rapid income growth, huge demand for housing from migrants, and wealth-driven demand for larger floor space. Read more

  Read more about the project

In the 1990s and 2000s there was an underlying theme presented in the land-use/cover change literature that road building in rural areas causes deforestation. Much of this work was based on research done in the Amazon. Our preliminary findings present a more nuanced view of the impact of road building on land-use and land-cover. Read more

Read more about the project

PI: Mark Friedl

Webinar Presenter: Lucy Hutyra

The United States is home to 5% of the world's population and 30% of the world's automobiles, emitting 45% of global transportation CO 2 emissions (DeCicco et al. 2006). In 2012, automobile emissions 
were 28% of total US fossil fuel CO2 emissions and accounted for almost half of the growth in total US emissions since 1990 (US EPA 2014). Despite being a substantial component of US emissions, on-road  CO2
remains poorly quantified at sub-state and urban scales (Gately et al. 2013). Read more   

This interdisciplinary project examines how urban infrastructure and vegetation (land cover) is distributed in and around sub-tropical desert cities and how this affects both the local and regional climate. Five regions were chosen - Las Vegas, USA; Beer Sheva, Israel; Jodhpur, India; Kharga, Egypt; Hotan/Hetian, China - to allow for a comprehensive analysis. The project has two overall goals. One is to gain a better understanding of how land cover and land use (LCLU) distribution, patterns, and arrangements within and around these cities affect the local and regional climate as well as how changes in these elements increase or decrease heat retention or cooling in these areas. The second is to use this knowledge to support adaptive management and foster the development of sustainable desert cities. Read more
Urban land covers alter the rhythms of regional climate on many time scales. Urban areas locally alter climate through changing the brightness and the dryness of urban surfaces, reducing wind speeds within cities, and increasing the concentration of air pollutants over cities. These changes interact to increase temperatures within and over cities relative to nearby rural areas in a phenomenon known as the urban heat island (UHI) effect. The intensity of the UHI effect is related to the spatial pattern of urban land covers, including the composition of and configuration of built-up areas with different uses (residential, industrial, commercial, tall buildings, transportation, recreation), the presence and proportion of open water and wetlands, and the amount and arrangement of vegetation (lawns, parks, woods, cemeteries, playing fields). Global urban areas cover a small fraction of total global land area, but their meteorological and ecological impacts extend far beyond nominal city boundaries. That urban vegetation strongly influences urban climate is widely acknowledged, but characterizing those influences in a consistent manner is challenging due to the fine-grained patchiness of vegetation in cities. Read more
Impervious surfaces, mainly artificial structures and roads, cover less than 1% of the world's land surface (1.3% over USA). Regardless of the relatively small coverage, impervious surfaces have a significant impact on the environment at scale from the local to the global. They are the main source of the urban heat island effect, and affect not only the energy balance, but also hydrology and carbon cycling, and both land and aquatic ecosystem services. In the last several decades, the pace of converting natural land surface to impervious surfaces has increased. Quantitatively monitoring the growth of impervious surface expansion and associated urbanization has become a priority topic across both the physical and social sciences. Read More 

Through novel image classification approaches that exploit dense Landsat ETM+ time stacks containing extensive cloud cover, we were able to examine LCLUC at the regional scale (Fig. 1). Overall, LCLU mapping exceeds 90% accuracy with Built close to 100% accurate and LCLUC mapping accuracy close to 85%. During the study period, 1.5% of the study area transitioned to Built, an increase of 56% Built area, while population increased by 33%. Most (84%) LCLUC involved conversion from Agricultural land use and occurred predominantly in suburban and peri-urban areas of the Accra and Kumasi metropolitan areas. While total population and amount of Built variables co-vary strongly at the census district level at the beginning and end of the study period, change in population and Built are less strongly correlated. In fact, we observe new Built development increasing at a greater rate than population growth for peri-urban areas of Accra and Kumasi, frequently occurring as spaced residential land use composed of large houses with minimal infrastructural support (Fig. 2). We are able to determine the time associated with the start of urbanization based on the dense ETM+ stacks, with a precision of about 2 years.  Read more 

Urbanization is among the most rapid and visible types of landscape transformations with climatic, hydrological, biophysical and ecological impacts on the environment. To quantify the impacts of such transformation urban areas should be characterized in terms of both the density of impervious areas and vegetated cover. In this project we use observations from Landsat and NPOESS VIIRS Day/Night Band to derive a consistent, robust, scalable characterization of the urbanization at sub-pixel resolutions. Read more

US cities are home to more than 50% of the population and this is where climate change will be felt the most. Urban communities will be interested to know how cities interact with climate and the scientific community is interested to include the urban ecosystem functions in climate models.Scientists at NASA use data fusion from Landsat and MODIS to characterize US urbanization and model its impact on surface climate.   For cities built within forests, daytime urban land surface temperature (LST) is found to be higher than that of vegetated lands. In Washington DC and Atlanta, daytime mean temperature differences between impervious and vegetated lands reach 3.3 and 2.0 °C, respectively, whereas for cities built in arid lands, such as Phoenix, urban areas are 2.2 °C cooler than surrounding shrubs. The study finds that the choice and amount of tree species in urban settings play a commanding role in modulating cities' LST. At continental and monthly scales, impervious surfaces are 1.9 °C ± 0.6 °C warmer than surroundings during summer and expel 12% of incoming precipitation as surface runoff compared to 3.2% over vegetation. It also shows that the carbon lost to urbanization represents 1.8% of the continental total, a striking number considering urbanization occupies only 1.1% of the US land. With a small areal extent, urbanization has significant effects on surface energy, water and carbon budgets and reveals an uneven impact on surface climate that should inform upon policy options for improving urban growth including heat mitigation and carbon sequestration. Read more
Past Events
Data and Missions


Sentinel-2A was launched on 23 June, 2015 from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana at 01:52 GMT. It is the second satellite to be launched for Europe's Copernicus environment monitoring programme, following Sentinel-1A which was launched last year. Its twin satellite Sentinel-2B is scheduled for launch in 2016.
It is a high resolution, wide swath sensor with 13 multispectral bands including three bands in the red edge, which provides critical information on vegetation status. Data from Sentinel-2A is expected to have applications in a wide range land monitoring activities ranging from forestry, agriculture, urbanization to disaster management.

The first image from Sentinel-2 A was available on 29 June, 2015. Now the sensor is in commissioning stage and is being calibrated.

Access to first pre-qualified S2 data is available from 
Just search for S2A* and you will find the first S2 data over North Italy between the many already existing Sentinel-1 data. Please note that the data are pre-qualified, current limitations include:
  • Large absolute geolocation error (several hundreds of meters).
  • Co-registration error between bands (within VNIR bands, larger between NIR-SWIR bands).
  • No land/water and cloud masks available.
  • For some products band 10 has not been radiometrically corrected.


Global 25m L-band SAR data from ALOS-PALSAR is now available for the period 2007-2010 from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The preprocessed data is available free of cost and can be downloaded as 1x1 degree mosaics from

Further, global Forest-Non-forest maps at 100m resolution produced by JAXA using the same dataset is also available at the website. The forest-non-forest maps contribute to REDD plus activities under the Kyoto Protocol Carbon Initiative.

For details contact: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Earth Observation Research Center, ALOS-Gr    e-Mail: 
International Workshop on Air Quality in Asia : Impacts of Land Cover/Land Use Changes on Greenhouse Gases/SLCP and Aerosols
GOFC-GOLD Southeast Asia Regional Informational Network International Workshop was organized during August 4th-7th, 2015, Bogor, Indonesia. The meeting focused on Impacts of Land Cover/Land Use Changes (LCLUC) on Greenhouse Gases/SLCP and Aerosols in the Asian region. The meeting was sponsored by START International Inc., GOFC-GOLD program, USA; National Institute of Environmental Studies, Japan, NASA, USA, the University of Maryland College Park, USA and Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia.

The meeting was highly successful and brought nearly 120 researchers from d
ifferent countries which included Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, China, Japan, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines and Indonesia. The main objective of the meeting was to discuss LCLUC and their impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and aerosols in the Asian region.  

The workshop was organized into six different sessions:   1. Regional and national science initiatives;
2. Land Cover/Land Use Change, Forests and GHG emissions;
3. Inventories, Monitoring and Modeling of GHG's and Air Pollution;
4. Vegetation Fires and Biomass Burning Emissions;
5. Aerosols and radiation
6. Regional Science Summary and South East Asia Regional Information Network (SEARRIN) - Research Priorities.  
Each session was chaired by international experts who are authority in the discipline. Also, each session started with the invited keynote presentations by experts. The workshop lasted for three days with forty two presentations. The fourth day of the workshop included field trip to Gudung Gede National Park to study local LCLUC and biodiversity of the park.
The workshop recognized that our shared atmosphere and trans-boundary movement of pollutants require a regional approach to:
  • advancing the science to better understand the sources, processes and trends;
  • developing and evaluating approaches to mitigate the adverse effects of GHGs and aerosol pollutants from different sources;
  • developing policy solutions;
The workshop recommended increased communication between scientists within the region through collaborative projects and workshops to enable:
  • sharing of local knowledge and data;
  • the development of common methods;
  • the development of increased capacity of scientists across the region to address common problems
  • the synthesis of scientific results and findings;
  • the packaging of scientific information in ways that can inform policy and the public at both the regional and national level.
The workshop outputs include: a). Journal special issue papers in Environmental Research Letters to be edited by Dr. Krishna Vadrevu and Dr. Toshimasa Ohara; b). Articles for the book entitled "Land-Atmospheric Interactions in Asia" to be edited by Dr. Krishna Vadrevu and Dr. Toshimasa Ohara and Dr. Chris Justice. All researchers working in the area of Land use/cover changes, Greenhouse gas emissions and aerosols in the Asian region will be invited to contribute to the journal special issue and book.

Contact Dr. Krishna Vadrevu for more details:
Capacity Building Workshop (CBW) of South Central and Eastern European Network (SCERIN): LCLUC Specifics and RS Challenges for Sustainable Management in SCERIN
The GOFC-GOLD South Central and Eastern European Regional Information Network ( SCERIN) Capacity Building Workshop (SCERIN-3 CBW) was held July 13-17, 2015 at the facility of the Transylvania University in Brasov, Romania. SCEIN-3 was co-sponsored by GOFC-GOLD, START
(START International Inc., USA) and the event hosts from the University of Transilvania Ioan Abrudan (Rector), Mihai-Daniel Nita and Iosif Vorovencii.
The workshop brought together over 45 participants from 15 countries, including SCERIN members from Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine and USA; and observers from Armenia, Georgia, Netherlands and Norway.
The main objectives of the workshop were to: 1) Review the challenges for sustainable land cover management in SCERIN, in the context of the recent LCLUC research accomplishments and GOFC-GOLD developments; 2) Provide forum and opportunity for the SCERIN Focus Groups (FGs) to resolve specific issues (actions) as requested by the community and to enhance capacity building in the region; 3) Address SCE priority topics, with focus on 'Remote sensing in forest management and administration', 'Monitoring of protected areas', and 'Assessment of forest disturbance'; 4) Review the requirements and availability of satellite data, products, and approaches for land cover monitoring in SCE; and 5) Inform on the major scientific efforts and projects with possible contribution and follow-up activities for SCERIN. The CBW facilitated the work of the SCERIN focus groups: FG1. Forest monitoring: disturbances, health and biomass [leads: Jana Albrechtova and Frantisek Zemek]; FG2. Land Cover Changes: agricultural land abandonment, urban expansion [leads: Lucie Kupkova, Levent Genc]; and FG3. Validation/verification network for support of current and future satellite NASA (HyspIRI, Landsat) and ESA missions [ leads: Anrej Halabuk, Mihai-Daniel Nita, Monika Tomashevska].
SCERIN-3 CBW was organized into seven sessions, chaired by experts and including discussions and presentations by international, regional and local experts and professionals. The sessions i ncluded: 1) Plenary session (July 13, 2015), chaired by Jana Albrechtova, Garik Gutman and Petya Campbell; 2) Research highlights (July 13, 2015), chaired by Mihai Nita and Levent Genc; LCLUC field trip (July 15, 2015), led by Mihai Nita and Catalina Monteanu; 3) SCERIN programmatic panel (July 15, 2015), chaired by Gregory Taff and Petya Campbell; 4) working sessions of FG1, FG2 and FG3 for developing collaborative projects and joined manuscripts (July 15 and 16, 2015); 5) Interactive poster presentations and speed talks (July 15, 2015), chaired by Gregory Taff and Petya Campbell; 6) Observers programmatic panel (July 16, 2015), chaired by Jana Albrechtova, provided many opportunities for questions and discussions; and 7) SCERIN-3 final session, which outlined SCERIN' s future plans, activities, and discussed the next SCERIN venue (July 16, 2015, co-led by Jana Albrechtova and Petya Campbell).
The workshop was oppened by Ioan Abrudan, the SCERIN-3 host, Forestry professor and currnet Rector of University of Transilvania. Professor Abrudan gave the formal Welcome and t he Key note lecture 'Introduction to forest and LUC in Romania'. NASAs LCLUC Program Manager Garik Gutman provided background and an overview of the NASAs priorities for the regional programs and the role of the regional networks under GOFC-GOLD, LCLUC support of SCERIN and NESPI. Dr. Gutman chaired a plenary programmatic session and lead discussions on the contribution of regional networks to Land Change science. Proffesor Jana Albrechtova (Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic; SCERIN Regional Coordinator) chaired the opening plenary programmatic session and the poster session of FG2. Dr. Petya Campbell (UMBC and NASA/GSFC, SCERIN Coordinator) gave the SCERIN Report. Prof. Albrechtova and Dr. Campbell co- lead the working session and discussions on the SCERIN collaborative overview research efforts and publications. Dr. Frantishek Zemek (Global Change Research Center, Czech Academy of Science), presented a quantitative assessment of forest ecosystem function from airborne data. Dr. Gregory Taff, Discussed the preliminary outcomes and challenges in modeling of grass biomass dynamics using RS. Catalina Munteanu , presented her dissertation study how the "Legacies of the 19 th century LU shape contemporary forests". Piotr Wazyk (Institute of Forest Resource Management, University of Agriculture in Krakow, Poland), discussed the advantages of airborne laser scanning vs stereomatching of aerial photos based approach. Dr. Thomas Katagis (Forest Management and Remote Sensing, Thessaloniki, Greece) discussed the priorities for forest management in Greece informed of the progress in building the Greek national forest observatory (NOF). Dr. Geza Kiraly (University of West Hungary, Sopron, Hungary) reported about innovative in forest monitoring via 3D technologies in the Danube floodplain area. Dr. Levente Ronczyk (University of Pecs, Hungary) discussed the issues and opportunities for utilizing SAR data for land monitoring. Monika Tomaszewska (Institute of Geodesy and Cartography, Warsaw, Poland) informed about the establishment of a Sentinel -1 supersite for testing as a validation.
The poster sessions provided venue for discussion of research topics of regional interest, such as: F orest dynamics and tree line evolution in pasture lands, based on Landsat and Sentinel archives; and Forest insects attacks detection and monitoring, of increasing importance in the context of climate change. In addition, SCERIN-3 outlined the activities to be conducted by the members within the following year.
The second day of the workshop (July 14, 2015) included a field trip in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains to study local LCLUC. In the mountainous region of Brasov, the heart of Carpathian Mountains the major LC changes represent forest conversion, including both deforestation and afforestation, and associated with various forestry practices and social and economic factors. The LCLUC field trip provide a view of the land use around Brasov and a retrospective of historical changes in land uses. The trip provided also an informal opportunity for discussions and networking.
The SCERIN-3 CBW was followed on July 17, 2015 by a one-day of training for graduate students and young professionals on the following topics: Global monitoring - LCLUC overview (G. Gutman), Remote-sensing time series change detection (L. Dutrieux), Airborne hyperspectral mapping of soil properties (F. Zamek and O. Brovkina), Forest mapping and retrieval of stand parameters with LiDAR (P. Wezyk), Regional LCC analysis and social aspects (G. Taff) and Writing scientific papers (C. Munteanu) .
The training was attended by 25 students from Romania, Poland, Croatia, Hungary and Moldova.
The CBW was highly successful to initiate three collaborative research efforts and outlined joined publications, validating global LCLUC maps and addressing regional issues and goals for the SCERIN region. The following SCERIN joint efforts, aiming at overview publications, were initiated:
  1. Overview of technology for Forest Monitoring in SCERIN (leads: Frantisek Zemek, Piotr Węzyk and Jana Albrechtova);
  2. LCLUC changes in the SCE region and their driving forces (leads: Greg Taff and Premek Stych);
  3. Global land cover products validation and intercomparison in the SCERIN area (lead: Ioannis Manakos).
The workshop recommended increased collaboration between scientists within the region through collaborative efforts and publications. To this end the following actions were adapted:
  1. Organizing a regional SCERIN LCLUC field verification GIS database (including sample points, pictures, and LCLUC information in ARC/GIS online; lead: Vladimir Gancz; Levente Ronczyk and Petya Campbell will start in September 2015 by providing test input data to Vladimir).
  2. Updating the SCERIN website to include webpages with:
  • links for each country, with list of active projects, data collections (lead: Jana Albrechtova, and the SCERIN representatives; deadline: December, 2015);
  • links to regional LCLUC metadata and data (lead; Jana, Petya, Mihai, Ioannis; deadline: ongoing), in coordination with START;
  • links to and from EaRSEL/LCLUC (lead: Ioannis Manakos; deadline: November 2015);
  • links to and from EaRSEL forestry interest group to SCERIN (lead: Piotr Wezyk; deadline: November 2015).
  1. To improve professional and social networking, by generating and maintaining:
  • SCERIN Linked inn group page (leads: Greg Taff and Petya Campbell, established);
  • SCERIN Facebook page for social networking (lead: Petya Campbell, generated).
  1. The development of SCERIN COST proposal is considered, for submission to ESA in the Spring 2016 (lead: Jana Albrechtova, and the SCERIN FGs; deadline: December 2015).
  2. Organizing a capacity building workshop in July 2016. The workshop in 2016 aims to improve the capacity of SCERINs scientists and professionals to address common problems, trough: sharing of local knowledge and data; improving/validating regional methods; synthesis of scientific results and findings in overview publications to inform the LCLUC community, the policy makers and the public.
For more information, the workshop agenda and presentations you can contact Petya Campbell: . All materials will be available at: and on the SCERIN GOFC-GOLD website
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