Special Issue "Google Earth Engine and Cloud Computing Platforms: Methods and Applications in Big Geo Data Science"

A special issue of Remote Sensing (ISSN 2072-4292).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Mattia Crespi
Website
Guest Editor
Geodesy and Geomatics Division—DICEA, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Interests: remote sensing big data analysis; optical and SAR satellite remote sensing, photogrammetry, and stereo-SAR; 3D terrain and objects modeling; GNSS positioning and monitoring; GNSS seismology
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Andrea Nascetti
Website
Guest Editor
KTH - Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Interests: EO Big data analytics; SAR; Photogrammetry; Google Earth Engine; Deep Learning
Dr. Roberta Ravanelli
Website
Guest Editor
Geodesy and Geomatics Division—DICEA, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Interests: geo big data and remote sensing big data analysis, image and point cloud processing; low-cost close-range 3D modelling

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

According to the well-known sentence “80% of data is geographic”, much of the data in the world can be geo-referenced. Geospatial data describe objects and things with locations given in a spatial reference frame, which now generally means the global spatial reference frame (often called WGS84), which is connected to the Global Navigation Satellite Systems. Geospatial data can be collected and analyzed using a variety of geomatic sensors and methodologies (GNSS and terrestrial surveying, photogrammetry and remote sensing, laser scanning, mobile mapping, geo-located sensors, geo-tagged web contents, and volunteered geographic information—VGI). Among them, those related to remote sensing play a pivotal role, since petabyte-scale archives of remote sensing data have become freely available from the EU Copernicus Program and multiple U.S. Government agencies (NASA, USGS, and NOAA).

This is the why the efficient geospatial big data handling, particularly remote sensing data, is of key importance. In this respect, it is necessary to change the way these data are visualized, processed, and analyzed, in order to make them truly available to the wide community of non-remote sensing experts, who indeed need remote sensing big data to investigate, monitor, and model a large and continuously growing variety of Earth systems, social, and economic processes.

Currently, cloud infrastructures can provide the required flexibility to manage (for both storage and computation) such huge amounts of data and to efficiently process them, thus making possible analyses that were previously thought unfeasible, due to data volume and computational restrictions. In this respect, Google Earth Engine (GEE) is a cloud-based platform that makes it easy to access both multi-temporal remote sensing big data and high-performance computing resources for processing these datasets. Also, GEE users can upload their own non-public data in reserved areas and process them together the public ones, performing synergic data fusion and integration. GEE is also designed to help researchers easily disseminate their results to other researchers, policy makers, and even the general public, to support a variety of management decisions or simply to share scientific results.

Research papers focusing on both methodology and applications by using GEE across different geographic scales are welcome, as well as contributions related to other public-domain platforms with goals similar to GEE (i.e., ESA DIAS and ESA TEPs—Thematic Exploitation Platforms).

Potential topics for this Special Issue include but are not limited to the following:

  • Remote Sensing Big Data analysis and integration with other geospatial data (i.e., GNSS, social media data);
  • Multi-Sensor and multi-resolution data analysis;
  • Machine and deep learning for remote sensing;
  • Land-use and land-cover change monitoring and modeling;
  • Urban and population dynamics characterization;
  • Water resources monitoring and modeling;
  • Forests and vegetation dynamics monitoring and modeling;
  • Ecosystem response to the climate change.

Prof. Mattia Crespi
Dr. Andrea Nascetti
Dr. Roberta Ravanelli
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Remote Sensing is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Geospatial and remote sensing big data
  • Big data analysis and dissemination
  • Big data comparison, integration, and fusion
  • Cloud computing platforms
  • Google Earth Engine
  • Earth system, social, and economic processes
  • Monitoring and modeling
  • Methodology
  • Applications.

Published Papers (17 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
RUESVMs: An Ensemble Method to Handle the Class Imbalance Problem in Land Cover Mapping Using Google Earth Engine
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(21), 3484; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12213484 - 23 Oct 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Timely and accurate Land Cover (LC) information is required for various applications, such as climate change analysis and sustainable development. Although machine learning algorithms are most likely successful in LC mapping tasks, the class imbalance problem is known as a common challenge in [...] Read more.
Timely and accurate Land Cover (LC) information is required for various applications, such as climate change analysis and sustainable development. Although machine learning algorithms are most likely successful in LC mapping tasks, the class imbalance problem is known as a common challenge in this regard. This problem occurs during the training phase and reduces classification accuracy for infrequent and rare LC classes. To address this issue, this study proposes a new method by integrating random under-sampling of majority classes and an ensemble of Support Vector Machines, namely Random Under-sampling Ensemble of Support Vector Machines (RUESVMs). The performance of RUESVMs for LC classification was evaluated in Google Earth Engine (GEE) over two different case studies using Sentinel-2 time-series data and five well-known spectral indices, including the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Green Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (GNDVI), Soil-Adjusted Vegetation Index (SAVI), Normalized Difference Built-up Index (NDBI), and Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI). The performance of RUESVMs was also compared with the traditional SVM and combination of SVM with three benchmark data balancing techniques namely the Random Over-Sampling (ROS), Random Under-Sampling (RUS), and Synthetic Minority Over-sampling Technique (SMOTE). It was observed that the proposed method considerably improved the accuracy of LC classification, especially for the minority classes. After adopting RUESVMs, the overall accuracy of the generated LC map increased by approximately 4.95 percentage points, and this amount for the geometric mean of producer’s accuracies was almost 3.75 percentage points, in comparison to the most accurate data balancing method (i.e., SVM-SMOTE). Regarding the geometric mean of users’ accuracies, RUESVMs also outperformed the SVM-SMOTE method with an average increase of 6.45 percentage points. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Mapping Freshwater Chlorophyll-a Concentrations at a Regional Scale Integrating Multi-Sensor Satellite Observations with Google Earth Engine
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(20), 3278; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12203278 - 09 Oct 2020
Abstract
Monitoring harmful algal blooms (HABs) in freshwater over regional scales has been implemented through mapping chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) concentrations using multi-sensor satellite remote sensing data. Cloud-free satellite measurements and a sufficient number of matched-up ground samples are critical for constructing a predictive [...] Read more.
Monitoring harmful algal blooms (HABs) in freshwater over regional scales has been implemented through mapping chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) concentrations using multi-sensor satellite remote sensing data. Cloud-free satellite measurements and a sufficient number of matched-up ground samples are critical for constructing a predictive model for Chl-a concentration. This paper presents a methodological framework for automatically pairing surface reflectance values from multi-sensor satellite observations with ground water quality samples in time and space to form match-up points, using the Google Earth Engine cloud computing platform. A support vector machine model was then trained using the match-up points, and the prediction accuracy of the model was evaluated and compared with traditional image processing results. This research demonstrates that the integration of multi-sensor satellite observations through Google Earth Engine enables accurate and fast Chl-a prediction at a large regional scale over multiple years. The challenges and limitations of using and calibrating multi-sensor satellite image data and current and potential solutions are discussed. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Continuous Monitoring of Urban Land Cover Change Trajectories with Landsat Time Series and LandTrendr-Google Earth Engine Cloud Computing
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(18), 2883; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12182883 - 05 Sep 2020
Abstract
Producing accurate land cover maps is time-consuming and estimating land cover changes between two generated maps is affected by error propagation. The increased availability of analysis-ready Earth Observation (EO) data and the access to big data analytics capabilities on Google Earth Engine (GEE) [...] Read more.
Producing accurate land cover maps is time-consuming and estimating land cover changes between two generated maps is affected by error propagation. The increased availability of analysis-ready Earth Observation (EO) data and the access to big data analytics capabilities on Google Earth Engine (GEE) have opened the opportunities for continuous monitoring of environment changing patterns. This research proposed a framework for analyzing urban land cover change trajectories based on Landsat time series and LandTrendr, a well-known spectral-temporal segmentation algorithm for land-based disturbance and recovery detection. The framework involved the use of baseline land cover maps generated at the beginning and at the end of the considered time interval and proposed a new approach to merge the LandTrendr results using multiple indices for reconstructing dense annual land cover maps within the considered period. A supervised support vector machine (SVM) classification was first performed on the two Landsat scenes, respectively, acquired in 1987 and 2019 over Kigali, Rwanda. The resulting land cover maps were then imported in the GEE platform and used to label the interannual LandTrendr-derived changes. The changes in duration, year, and magnitude of land cover disturbance were derived from six different indices/bands using the LandTrendr algorithm. The interannual change LandTrendr results were then combined using a robust estimation procedure based on principal component analysis (PCA) for reconstructing the annual land cover change maps. The produced yearly land cover maps were assessed using validation data and the GEE-based Area Estimation and Accuracy Assessment (Area2) application. The results were used to study the Kigali’s urbanization in the last three decades since 1987. The results illustrated that from 1987 to 1998, the urbanization was characterized by slow development, with less than a 2% annual growth rate. The post-conflict period was characterized by accelerated urbanization, with a 4.5% annual growth rate, particularly from 2004 onwards due to migration flows and investment promotion in the construction industry. The five-year interval analysis from 1990 to 2019 revealed that impervious surfaces increased from 4233.5 to 12116 hectares, with a 3.7% average annual growth rate. The proposed scheme was found to be cost-effective and useful for continuously monitoring the complex urban land cover dynamics, especially in environments with EO data affordability issues, and in data-sparse regions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing the Influence of Tourism-Driven Activities on Environmental Variables on Hainan Island, China
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(17), 2813; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12172813 - 30 Aug 2020
Abstract
Tourism is a primary socio-economic factor on many coastal islands. Tourism contributes to the livelihoods of the residents, but also influences natural resources and energy consumption and can become a significant driver of land conversion and environmental change. Understanding the influence of tourist-related [...] Read more.
Tourism is a primary socio-economic factor on many coastal islands. Tourism contributes to the livelihoods of the residents, but also influences natural resources and energy consumption and can become a significant driver of land conversion and environmental change. Understanding the influence of tourist-related activities is vital for sustainable tourism development. We chose Hainan Island in South China as a research area to study the influence of tourist-driven activities on environmental variables (as Land Surface Temperatures (LST) and related ecosystem variables) during the period of 2000 to 2019. In Hainan, the local economy relies heavily on tourism, with an ever-growing influx of tourists each year. We categorised location-based points of interest (POIs) into two classes, non-tourism sites and tourism-related sites, and utilised satellite data from the cloud-based platform Google Earth Engine (GEE) to extract LST and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data. We analysed the LST variations, NDVI changes and the land use/land cover (LULC) changes and compared the relative difference in LST and NDVI between the tourism-related sites and non-tourism-related sites. The main findings of this study were: (1) The median LST in the tourism-related sites was relatively higher (1.3) than the LST in the non-tourism-related sites for the 20 years. Moreover, every annual mean LST of tourism-related sites was higher than the LST values in non-tourism-related sites, with an average difference of 1.2 °C for the 20 years and a maximum difference of 1.7 °C. We found higher annual LST anomalies for tourist-related sites compared to non-tourism sites after 2010, which indicated the likely positive differences in LST above the average LST during 20 years for tourism-related sites when compared against the non-tourism related sites, thus highlighting the potential influence of tourism activities on LST. (2) The annual mean NDVI value for tourism-related sites was significantly lower than for non-tourism places every year, with an average NDVI difference of 0.26 between the two sites. (3) The land cover changed significantly: croplands and forests reduced by 3.5% and 2.8% respectively, while the areas covered by orchards and urban areas increased by 2% and 72.3% respectively. These results indicate the influence of the tourism-driven activities includes the relatively high LST, vegetation degradation and land-use conversion particular to urban cover type. The outcome of this work provides a method that combines cloud-based satellite-derived data with location-based POIs data for quantifying the long-term influence of tourism-related activities on sensitive coastal ecosystems. It contributes to designing evidence-driven management plans and policies for the sustainable tourism development in coastal areas. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Comparing Sentinel-1 Surface Water Mapping Algorithms and Radiometric Terrain Correction Processing in Southeast Asia Utilizing Google Earth Engine
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(15), 2469; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12152469 - 01 Aug 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Satellite remote sensing plays an important role in the monitoring of surface water for historical analysis and near real-time applications. Due to its cloud penetrating capability, many studies have focused on providing efficient and high quality methods for surface water mapping using Synthetic [...] Read more.
Satellite remote sensing plays an important role in the monitoring of surface water for historical analysis and near real-time applications. Due to its cloud penetrating capability, many studies have focused on providing efficient and high quality methods for surface water mapping using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). However, few studies have explored the effects of SAR pre-processing steps used and the subsequent results as inputs into surface water mapping algorithms. This study leverages the Google Earth Engine to compare two unsupervised histogram-based thresholding surface water mapping algorithms utilizing two distinct pre-processed Sentinel-1 SAR datasets, specifically one with and one without terrain correction. The resulting surface water maps from the four different collections were validated with user-interpreted samples from high-resolution Planet Scope data. It was found that the overall accuracy from the four collections ranged from 92% to 95% with Cohen’s Kappa coefficients ranging from 0.7999 to 0.8427. The thresholding algorithm that samples a histogram based on water edge information performed best with a maximum accuracy of 95%. While the accuracies varied between methods it was found that there is no statistical significant difference between the errors of the different collections. Furthermore, the surface water maps generated from the terrain corrected data resulted in a intersection over union metrics of 95.8%–96.4%, showing greater spatial agreement, as compared to 92.3%–93.1% intersection over union using the non-terrain corrected data. Overall, it was found that algorithms using terrain correction yield higher overall accuracy and yielded a greater spatial agreement between methods. However, differences between the approaches presented in this paper were not found to be significant suggesting both methods are valid for generating accurate surface water maps. High accuracy surface water maps are critical to disaster planning and response efforts, thus results from this study can help inform SAR data users on the pre-processing steps needed and its effects as inputs on algorithms for surface water mapping applications. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Land Cover Classification using Google Earth Engine and Random Forest Classifier—The Role of Image Composition
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(15), 2411; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12152411 - 27 Jul 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Land cover information plays a vital role in many aspects of life, from scientific and economic to political. Accurate information about land cover affects the accuracy of all subsequent applications, therefore accurate and timely land cover information is in high demand. In land [...] Read more.
Land cover information plays a vital role in many aspects of life, from scientific and economic to political. Accurate information about land cover affects the accuracy of all subsequent applications, therefore accurate and timely land cover information is in high demand. In land cover classification studies over the past decade, higher accuracies were produced when using time series satellite images than when using single date images. Recently, the availability of the Google Earth Engine (GEE), a cloud-based computing platform, has gained the attention of remote sensing based applications where temporal aggregation methods derived from time series images are widely applied (i.e., the use the metrics such as mean or median), instead of time series images. In GEE, many studies simply select as many images as possible to fill gaps without concerning how different year/season images might affect the classification accuracy. This study aims to analyze the effect of different composition methods, as well as different input images, on the classification results. We use Landsat 8 surface reflectance (L8sr) data with eight different combination strategies to produce and evaluate land cover maps for a study area in Mongolia. We implemented the experiment on the GEE platform with a widely applied algorithm, the Random Forest (RF) classifier. Our results show that all the eight datasets produced moderately to highly accurate land cover maps, with overall accuracy over 84.31%. Among the eight datasets, two time series datasets of summer scenes (images from 1 June to 30 September) produced the highest accuracy (89.80% and 89.70%), followed by the median composite of the same input images (88.74%). The difference between these three classifications was not significant based on the McNemar test (p > 0.05). However, significant difference (p < 0.05) was observed for all other pairs involving one of these three datasets. The results indicate that temporal aggregation (e.g., median) is a promising method, which not only significantly reduces data volume (resulting in an easier and faster analysis) but also produces an equally high accuracy as time series data. The spatial consistency among the classification results was relatively low compared to the general high accuracy, showing that the selection of the dataset used in any classification on GEE is an important and crucial step, because the input images for the composition play an essential role in land cover classification, particularly with snowy, cloudy and expansive areas like Mongolia. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
An Analysis of Long-Term Rainfall Trends and Variability in the Uttarakhand Himalaya Using Google Earth Engine
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(4), 709; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12040709 - 21 Feb 2020
Cited by 4
Abstract
This paper analyses the spatio-temporal trends and variability in annual, seasonal, and monthly rainfall with corresponding rainy days in Bhilangana river basin, Uttarakhand Himalaya, based on stations and two gridded products. Station-based monthly rainfall and rainy days data were obtained from the India [...] Read more.
This paper analyses the spatio-temporal trends and variability in annual, seasonal, and monthly rainfall with corresponding rainy days in Bhilangana river basin, Uttarakhand Himalaya, based on stations and two gridded products. Station-based monthly rainfall and rainy days data were obtained from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) for the period from 1983 to 2008 and applied, along with two daily rainfall gridded products to establish temporal changes and spatial associations in the study area. Due to the lack of more recent ground station rainfall measurements for the basin, gridded data were then used to establish monthly rainfall spatio-temporal trends for the period 2009 to 2018. The study shows all surface observatories in the catchment experienced an annual decreasing trend in rainfall over the 1983 to 2008 period, averaging 15.75 mm per decade. Analysis of at the monthly and seasonal trend showed reduced rainfall for August and during monsoon season as a whole (10.13 and 11.38 mm per decade, respectively); maximum changes were observed in both monsoon and winter months. Gridded rainfall data were obtained from the Climate Hazard Infrared Group Precipitation Station (CHIRPS) and Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Information Using Artificial Neural Networks-Climate Data Record (PERSIANN-CDR). By combining the big data analytical potential of Google Earth Engine (GEE), we compare spatial patterns and temporal trends in observational and modelled precipitation and demonstrate that remote sensing products can reliably be used in inaccessible areas where observational data are scarce and/or temporally incomplete. CHIRPS reanalysis data indicate that there are in fact three significantly distinct annual rainfall periods in the basin, viz. phase 1: 1983 to 1997 (relatively high annual rainfall); phase 2: 1998 to 2008 (drought); phase 3: 2009 to 2018 (return to relatively high annual rainfall again). By comparison, PERSIANN-CDR data show reduced annual and winter precipitation, but no significant changes during the monsoon and pre-monsoon seasons from 1983 to 2008. The major conclusions of this study are that rainfall modelled using CHIRPS corresponds well with the observational record in confirming the decreased annual and seasonal rainfall, averaging 10.9 and 7.9 mm per decade respectively between 1983 and 2008, although there is a trend (albeit not statistically significant) to higher rainfall after the marked dry period between 1998 and 2008. Long-term variability in rainfall in the Bhilangana river basin has had critical impacts on the environment arising from water scarcity in this mountainous region. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Temporal Patterns in Illumination Conditions and Its Effect on Vegetation Indices Using Landsat on Google Earth Engine
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(2), 211; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12020211 - 08 Jan 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Vegetation indices (VI) describe vegetation structure and functioning but they are affected by illumination conditions (IC). Moreover, the fact that the effect of the IC on VI can be stronger than other biophysical or seasonal processes is under debate. Using Google Earth Engine [...] Read more.
Vegetation indices (VI) describe vegetation structure and functioning but they are affected by illumination conditions (IC). Moreover, the fact that the effect of the IC on VI can be stronger than other biophysical or seasonal processes is under debate. Using Google Earth Engine and the latest Landsat Surface Reflectance level 1 data, we evaluated the temporal patterns of IC and two VI, the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) in a mountainous tropical forest during the years 1984–2017. We evaluated IC and VI at different times, their relationship with the topography and the correlations between them. We show that IC is useful for understanding the patterns of variation between VI and IC at the pixel level using Landsat sensors. Our findings confirmed a strong correlation between EVI and IC and less between NDVI and IC. We found a significant increase in IC, EVI, and NDVI throughout time due to an improvement in the position of all Landsat sensors. Our results reinforce the need to consider IC to interpret VI over long periods using Landsat data in order to increase the precision of monitoring VI in irregular topography. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Dimensionality Reduction and Feature Selection for Object-Based Land Cover Classification based on Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 Time Series Using Google Earth Engine
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(1), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12010076 - 24 Dec 2019
Cited by 15
Abstract
Mapping Earth’s surface and its rapid changes with remotely sensed data is a crucial task to understand the impact of an increasingly urban world population on the environment. However, the impressive amount of available Earth observation data is only marginally exploited in common [...] Read more.
Mapping Earth’s surface and its rapid changes with remotely sensed data is a crucial task to understand the impact of an increasingly urban world population on the environment. However, the impressive amount of available Earth observation data is only marginally exploited in common classifications. In this study, we use the computational power of Google Earth Engine and Google Cloud Platform to generate an oversized feature set in which we explore feature importance and analyze the influence of dimensionality reduction methods to object-based land cover classification with Support Vector Machines. We propose a methodology to extract the most relevant features and optimize an SVM classifier hyperparameters to achieve higher classification accuracy. The proposed approach is evaluated in two different urban study areas of Stockholm and Beijing. Despite different training set sizes in the two study sites, the averaged feature importance ranking showed similar results for the top-ranking features. In particular, Sentinel-2 NDVI, NDWI, and Sentinel-1 VV temporal means are the highest ranked features and the experiment results strongly indicated that the fusion of these features improved the separability between urban land cover and land use classes. Overall classification accuracies of 94% and 93% were achieved in Stockholm and Beijing study sites, respectively. The test demonstrated the viability of the methodology in a cloud-computing environment to incorporate dimensionality reduction as a key step in the land cover classification process, which we consider essential for the exploitation of the growing Earth observation big data. To encourage further research and development of reliable workflows, we share our datasets and publish the developed Google Earth Engine and Python scripts as free and open-source software. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Global Changes in Urban Vegetation Cover
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(1), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12010023 - 19 Dec 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Urban vegetation provides many ecosystem services that make cities more liveable for people. As the world continues to urbanise, the vegetation cover in urban areas is changing rapidly. Here we use Google Earth Engine to map vegetation cover in all urban areas larger [...] Read more.
Urban vegetation provides many ecosystem services that make cities more liveable for people. As the world continues to urbanise, the vegetation cover in urban areas is changing rapidly. Here we use Google Earth Engine to map vegetation cover in all urban areas larger than 15 km2 in 2000 and 2015, which covered 390,000 km2 and 490,000 km2 respectively. In 2015, urban vegetation covered a substantial area, equivalent to the size of Belarus. Proportional vegetation cover was highly variable, and declined in most urban areas between 2000 and 2015. Declines in proportional vegetated cover were particularly common in the Global South. Conversely, proportional vegetation cover increased in some urban areas in eastern North America and parts of Europe. Most urban areas that increased in vegetation cover also increased in size, suggesting that the observed net increases were driven by the capture of rural ecosystems through low-density suburban sprawl. Far fewer urban areas achieved increases in vegetation cover while remaining similar in size, although this trend occurred in some regions with shrinking populations or economies. Maintaining and expanding urban vegetation cover alongside future urbanisation will be critical for the well-being of the five billion people expected to live in urban areas by 2030. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Automatic Land-Cover Mapping using Landsat Time-Series Data based on Google Earth Engine
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(24), 3023; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs11243023 - 15 Dec 2019
Cited by 11
Abstract
The Google Earth Engine (GEE) has emerged as an essential cloud-based platform for land-cover classification as it provides massive amounts of multi-source satellite data and high-performance computation service. This paper proposed an automatic land-cover classification method using time-series Landsat data on the GEE [...] Read more.
The Google Earth Engine (GEE) has emerged as an essential cloud-based platform for land-cover classification as it provides massive amounts of multi-source satellite data and high-performance computation service. This paper proposed an automatic land-cover classification method using time-series Landsat data on the GEE cloud-based platform. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) land-cover products (MCD12Q1.006) with the International Geosphere–Biosphere Program (IGBP) classification scheme were used to provide accurate training samples using the rules of pixel filtering and spectral filtering, which resulted in an overall accuracy (OA) of 99.2%. Two types of spectral–temporal features (percentile composited features and median composited monthly features) generated from all available Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) and Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) data from the year 2010 ± 1 were used as input features to a Random Forest (RF) classifier for land-cover classification. The results showed that the monthly features outperformed the percentile features, giving an average OA of 80% against 77%. In addition, the monthly features composited using the median outperformed those composited using the maximum Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) with an average OA of 80% against 78%. Therefore, the proposed method is able to generate accurate land-cover mapping automatically based on the GEE cloud-based platform, which is promising for regional and global land-cover mapping. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Mapping Trajectories of Coastal Land Reclamation in Nine Deltaic Megacities using Google Earth Engine
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(22), 2621; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs11222621 - 08 Nov 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
Increasing demand for land resources at the coast has exerted immense pressure on vulnerable environments. Population and economic growth in coastal cities have combined to produce a scarcity of suitable space for development, the response to which has frequently been the reclamation of [...] Read more.
Increasing demand for land resources at the coast has exerted immense pressure on vulnerable environments. Population and economic growth in coastal cities have combined to produce a scarcity of suitable space for development, the response to which has frequently been the reclamation of land from the sea, most prominently in China. Urbanization is a key driver of such changes and a detailed investigation of coastal land reclamation at the city scale is required. This study analyzed remote sensing imagery for the period 1990 to 2018 to explore the trajectories of coastal land reclamation in nine major urban agglomerations across the three largest deltas in China using the JRC Global Surface Water (Yearly Water Classification History, v1.1) (GSW) dataset on the Google Earth Engine platform. The results are considered in the context of major national policy reforms over the last three decades. The analysis reveals that total land reclaimed among nine selected cities had exceeded 2800 km2 since 1984, 82% of which occurred after 2000, a year following the enactment of China’s agricultural ‘red line’ policy. Shanghai exhibited the greatest overall area of land extension, followed by Ningbo and Tianjin, especially in the period following the privatization of property rights in 2004. In analyzing annual trends, we identified the developmental stages of a typical coastal reclamation project and how these vary between cities. Scrutiny of the results revealed voids in nighttime light satellite data (2014–2018) in some localities. Although these voids appeared to be characterized by construction, they were occupied by vacant buildings, and were therefore examples of so-called “ghost cities.” In China, as elsewhere, continual land reclamation needs to be considered in relation to, inter alia, sea level rise and land subsidence that pose significant challenges to the vision of sustainable urban development in these three deltaic megacities. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Long-Term Spatial and Temporal Monitoring of Cyanobacteria Blooms Using MODIS on Google Earth Engine: A Case Study in Taihu Lake
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(19), 2269; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs11192269 - 28 Sep 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
As cyanobacteria blooms occur in many types of inland water, routine monitoring that is fast and accurate is important for environment and drinking water protection. Compared to field investigations, satellite remote sensing is an efficient and effective method for monitoring cyanobacteria blooms. However, [...] Read more.
As cyanobacteria blooms occur in many types of inland water, routine monitoring that is fast and accurate is important for environment and drinking water protection. Compared to field investigations, satellite remote sensing is an efficient and effective method for monitoring cyanobacteria blooms. However, conventional remote sensing monitoring methods are labor intensive and time consuming, especially when processing long-term images. In this study, we embedded related processing procedures in Google Earth Engine, developed an operational cyanobacteria bloom monitoring workflow. Using this workflow, we measured the spatiotemporal patterns of cyanobacteria blooms in China’s Taihu Lake from 2000 to 2018. The results show that cyanobacteria bloom patterns in Taihu Lake have significant spatial and temporal differentiation: the interannual coverage of cyanobacteria blooms had two peaks, and the condition was moderate before 2006, peaked in 2007, declined rapidly after 2008, remained moderate and stable until 2015, and then reached another peak around 2017; bays and northwest lake areas had heavier cyanobacteria blooms than open lake areas; most cyanobacteria blooms primarily occurred in April, worsened in July and August, then improved after October. Our analysis of the relationship between cyanobacteria bloom characteristics and environmental driving factors indicates that: from both monthly and interannual perspectives, meteorological factors are positively correlated with cyanobacteria bloom characteristics, but as for nutrient loadings, they are only positively correlated with cyanobacteria bloom characteristics from an interannual perspective. We believe reducing total phosphorous, together with restoring macrophyte ecosystem, would be the necessary long-term management strategies for Taihu Lake. Our workflow provides an automatic and rapid approach for the long-term monitoring of cyanobacteria blooms, which can improve the automation and efficiency of routine environmental management of Taihu Lake and may be applied to other similar inland waters. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Changes in Water Surface Area during 1989–2017 in the Huai River Basin using Landsat Data and Google Earth Engine
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(15), 1824; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs11151824 - 04 Aug 2019
Cited by 6
Abstract
The dynamics of surface water play a crucial role in the hydrological cycle and are sensitive to climate change and anthropogenic activities, especially for the agricultural zone. As one of the most populous areas in China’s river basins, the surface water in the [...] Read more.
The dynamics of surface water play a crucial role in the hydrological cycle and are sensitive to climate change and anthropogenic activities, especially for the agricultural zone. As one of the most populous areas in China’s river basins, the surface water in the Huai River Basin has significant impacts on agricultural plants, ecological balance, and socioeconomic development. However, it is unclear how water areas responded to climate change and anthropogenic water exploitation in the past decades. To understand the changes in water surface areas in the Huai River Basin, this study used the available 16,760 scenes Landsat TM, ETM+, and OLI images in this region from 1989 to 2017 and processed the data on the Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform. The vegetation index and water index were used to quantify the spatiotemporal variability of the surface water area changes over the years. The major results include: (1) The maximum area, the average area, and the seasonal variation of surface water in the Huai River Basin showed a downward trend in the past 29 years, and the year-long surface water areas showed a slight upward trend; (2) the surface water area was positively correlated with precipitation (p < 0.05), but was negatively correlated with the temperature and evapotranspiration; (3) the changes of the total area of water bodies were mainly determined by the 216 larger water bodies (>10 km2). Understanding the variations in water body areas and the controlling factors could support the designation and implementation of sustainable water management practices in agricultural, industrial, and domestic usages. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Improvement of Remote Sensing-Based Assessment of Defoliation of Pinus spp. Caused by Thaumetopoea pityocampa Denis and Schiffermüller and Related Environmental Drivers in Southeastern Spain
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(14), 1736; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs11141736 - 23 Jul 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
This study used Landsat temporal series to describe defoliation levels due to the Pine Processionary Moth (PPM) in Pinus forests of southeastern Andalusia (Spain), utilizing Google Earth Engine. A combination of remotely sensed data and field survey data was used to detect the [...] Read more.
This study used Landsat temporal series to describe defoliation levels due to the Pine Processionary Moth (PPM) in Pinus forests of southeastern Andalusia (Spain), utilizing Google Earth Engine. A combination of remotely sensed data and field survey data was used to detect the defoliation levels of different Pinus spp. and the main environmental drivers of the defoliation due to the PPM. Four vegetation indexes were also calculated for remote sensing defoliation assessment, both inside the stand and in a 60-m buffer area. In the area of study, all Pinus species are affected by defoliation due to the PPM, with a cyclic behavior that has been increasing in frequency in recent years. Defoliation levels were practically equal for all species, with a high increase in defoliation levels 2 and 3 since 2014. The Moisture Stress Index (MSI) and Normalized Difference Infrared Index (NDII) exhibited similar overall (p < 0.001) accuracy in the assessment of defoliation due to the PPM. The synchronization of NDII-defoliation data had a similar pattern for all together and individual Pinus species, showing the ability of this index to adjust the model parameters based on the characteristics of specific defoliation levels. Using Landsat-based NDII-defoliation maps and interpolated environmental data, we have shown that the PPM defoliation in southeastern Spain is driven by the minimum temperature in February and the precipitation in June, March, September, and October. Therefore, the NDII-defoliation assessment seems to be a general index that can be applied to forests in other areas. The trends of NDII-defoliation related to environmental variables showed the importance of summer drought stress in the expansion of the PPM on Mediterranean Pinus species. Our results confirm the potential of Landsat time-series data in the assessment of PPM defoliation and the spatiotemporal patterns of the PPM; hence, these data are a powerful tool that can be used to develop a fully operational system for the monitoring of insect damage. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Mapping Tidal Flats with Landsat 8 Images and Google Earth Engine: A Case Study of the China’s Eastern Coastal Zone circa 2015
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(8), 924; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs11080924 - 16 Apr 2019
Cited by 12
Abstract
Accurate and up-to-date tidal flat mapping is of much importance to learning how coastal ecosystems work in a time of anthropogenic disturbances and rising sea levels, which will provide scientific instruction for sustainable management and ecological assessments. For large-scale and high spatial-resolution mapping [...] Read more.
Accurate and up-to-date tidal flat mapping is of much importance to learning how coastal ecosystems work in a time of anthropogenic disturbances and rising sea levels, which will provide scientific instruction for sustainable management and ecological assessments. For large-scale and high spatial-resolution mapping of tidal flats, it is difficult to obtain accurate tidal flat maps without multi-temporal observation data. In this study, we aim to investigate the potential and advantages of the freely accessible Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) imagery archive and Google Earth Engine (GEE) for accurate tidal flats mapping. A novel approach was proposed, including multi-temporal feature extraction, machine learning classification using GEE and morphological post-processing. The 50 km buffer of the coastline from Hangzhou Bay to Yalu River in China’s eastern coastal zone was taken as the study area. From the perspective of natural attributes and unexploited status of tidal flats, we delineated a broader extent comprising intertidal flats, supratidal barren flats and vegetated flats, since intertidal flats are major component of the tidal flats. The overall accuracy of the resultant map was about 94.4% from a confusion matrix for accuracy assessment. The results showed that the use of time-series images can greatly eliminate the effects of tidal level, and improve the mapping accuracy. This study also proved the potential and advantage of combining the GEE platform with time-series Landsat images, due to its powerful cloud computing platform, especially for large scale and longtime tidal flats mapping. Full article
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Open AccessLetter
Improved Estimates of Arctic Land Surface Phenology Using Sentinel-2 Time Series
Remote Sens. 2020, 12(22), 3738; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs12223738 - 13 Nov 2020
Abstract
The high spatial resolution and revisit time of Sentinel-2A/B tandem satellites allow a potentially improved retrieval of land surface phenology (LSP). The biome and regional characteristics, however, greatly constrain the design of the LSP algorithms. In the Arctic, such biome-specific characteristics include prolonged [...] Read more.
The high spatial resolution and revisit time of Sentinel-2A/B tandem satellites allow a potentially improved retrieval of land surface phenology (LSP). The biome and regional characteristics, however, greatly constrain the design of the LSP algorithms. In the Arctic, such biome-specific characteristics include prolonged periods of snow cover, persistent cloud cover, and shortness of the growing season. Here, we evaluate the feasibility of Sentinel-2 for deriving high-resolution LSP maps of the Arctic. We extracted the timing of the start and end of season (SoS and EoS, respectively) for the years 2019 and 2020 with a simple implementation of the threshold method in Google Earth Engine (GEE). We found a high level of similarity between Sentinel-2 and PhenoCam metrics; the best results were observed with Sentinel-2 enhanced vegetation index (EVI) (root mean squared error (RMSE) and mean error (ME) of 3.0 d and −0.3 d for the SoS, and 6.5 d and −3.8 d for the EoS, respectively), although other vegetation indices presented similar performances. The phenological maps of Sentinel-2 EVI compared well with the same maps extracted from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) in homogeneous landscapes (RMSE and ME of 9.2 d and 2.9 d for the SoS, and 6.4 and −0.9 d for the EoS, respectively). Unreliable LSP estimates were filtered and a quality flag indicator was activated when the Sentinel-2 time series presented a long period (>40 d) of missing data; discontinuities were lower in spring and early summer (9.2%) than in late summer and autumn (39.4%). The Sentinel-2 high-resolution LSP maps and the GEE phenological extraction method will support vegetation monitoring and contribute to improving the representation of Artic vegetation phenology in land surface models. Full article
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