A Sense of Time

by Caitlin Douglas

Remotely sensed imagery – it’s everywhere – it’s in the news, researchers use it, and politicians refer to it. In a recent Geography Compass article, Southworth and Gibbes review the past, present, and future of remote sensing in assessing land change. As people seek to understand how we affect the configuration of the environment which in turn impacts ecosystem functioning, biodiversity and climate, land change analysis is becoming an increasingly important area of study.

If you have ever looked into the science behind remote sensing but were baffled by the technicality, the Southworth and Gibbs article is for you as it provides a succinct and accessible summary.  But you don’t even need to know the science behind, or even understand, remote sensing to use it. Google Earth has an exciting function which lets you turn back time and see previous landscapes. All you need do is click the clock symbol on the Google Earth toolbar to look back in time. Check out the changing face of Birmingham city centre and the transition from the Bull Ring market area in 1999 to today’s modern retail complex. Look at the growth of Birmingham International Airport and the NEC. The historical journey of the London Docklands awaits – contrast the ships docked at Canary Wharf in 1945 to today’s sky scrapers and manicured lawns.

Read the article. Southworth, J., and Gibbes, C. 2010. Digital Remote Sensing within the Field of Land Change Science: Past, Present and Future Directions. Geography Compass, 4(12): 1695 – 1712.

Download the software. Google Earth.

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