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The Group on Earth Observations looks toward a second decade of data sharing

06 January 2014

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The image that best captures the raison d'etre of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) - which is holding its 10th plenary in Geneva, Switzerland, this month - is not a satellite image. Strictly speaking, the image doesn't even fall into the category of Earth observation; it is a rather ordinary looking graph from a PowerPoint presentation used by Barbara J. Ryan, director of the GEO Secretariat, at a workshop hosted by the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing in Ankara, Turkey, in November.

The slide graphs the number of images delivered from the Landsat series of satellites to governments, academics, non-governmental organizations and other institutions from October 2007 to June 2013. A line indicating the number of scenes crawls along the bottom of the X-axis until 01 October 2008. Then, it lifts off like a Saturn V rocket, passing the 1-million mark in less than a year. The last data point (10 June 2013) is just shy of the 12 million scene mark. In 2001, the best year for Landsat image sales, an average of 53 scenes were purchased a day. Today, that figure stands at around 5,700 scenes a day. Ryan has a simple explanation for this rapid increase.

"On 01 October 2008," she said in a recent interview with Earthzine, "the United States government stopped charging for Landsat scenes. It was a sea change."

Source: Earthzine