Agriculture is a highly dynamic process in space and time, with many applications requiring data with both a relatively high temporal resolution (at least every 8 days) and fine-to-moderate (FTM < 100 m) spatial resolution. The relatively infrequent revisit of FTM optical satellite observatories coupled with the impacts of cloud occultation have translated into a barrier for the derivation of agricultural information at the regional-to-global scale. Drawing upon the Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) Initiative’s general satellite Earth observation (EO) requirements for monitoring of major production areas, Whitcraft et al.
(this issue) have described where, when, and how frequently satellite data acquisitions are required throughout the agricultural growing season at 0.05°, globally. The majority of areas and times of year require multiple revisits to probabilistically yield a view at least 70%, 80%, 90%, or 95% clear within eight days, something that no present single FTM optical observatory is capable of delivering. As such, there is a great potential to meet these moderate spatial resolution optical data requirements through a multi-space agency/multi-mission constellation approach. This research models the combined revisit capabilities of seven hypothetical constellations made from five satellite sensors—Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper (Landsat 7 ETM+), Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager and Thermal Infrared Sensor (Landsat 8 OLI/TIRS), Resourcesat-2 Advanced Wide Field Sensor (Resourcesat-2 AWiFS), Sentinel-2A Multi-Spectral Instrument (MSI), and Sentinel-2B MSI—and compares these capabilities with the revisit frequency requirements for a reasonably cloud-free clear view within eight days throughout the agricultural growing season. Supplementing Landsat 7 and 8 with missions from different space agencies leads to an improved capacity to meet requirements, with Resourcesat-2 providing the largest incremental improvement in requirements met. The best performing constellation can meet 71%–91% of the requirements for a view at least 70% clear, and 45%–68% of requirements for a view at least 95% clear, varying by month. Still, gaps exist in persistently cloudy regions/periods, highlighting the need for data coordination and for consideration of active EO for agricultural monitoring. This research highlights opportunities, but not actual acquisition rates or data availability/access; systematic acquisitions over actively cropped agricultural areas as well as a policy which guarantees continuous access to high quality, interoperable data are essential in the effort to meet EO requirements for agricultural monitoring.
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