DE Transitions (Apr-Jun, 2014)

Data drives everything. In recent years, the phrase ’Big Data’ has been used in commercial, industrial and scientific areas. Earth observation data and geospatial data applications are pivotal contributors to this data deluge. In Digital Earth, big data may refer to the large volume of remote sensing images, considerable variety of multiple temporal and spatial resolutions,rapid velocity of geo-information collection and dissemination, and trustworthy veracity of observation data quality and storage.

The booming space industry has brought a large increase in Earth observation data. A newly released report notes the satellite manufacturing and launch industry is growing,with more than 100 satellites ordered and more than 100 satellites launched inthe past 12 months, and will deploy 1,000+ satellites and generate $275 billionin the next 10 years [1]. Another report revealed the global space economy’s continued growth to be $314.17 billion in commercial revenue and government budgets in 2013 [2]. In this space competition, NASA will not be the only giant player; the EU’s €8.4 billion Copernicus program will draw in data from about 30 other satellites, and from ocean buoys, weather stations andair-quality monitoring networks [3].

Some researchers have highlighted the significance of big data technologies in array database management systems, integrated analytics suites, and integrated collaborative infrastructure in tackling many currently unsolved problems in Earth studies [4]. It should also be noted that the technology extends Digital Earth into emerging research fields, for instance, citizen science and crowd-sourcing,cross-discipline research, social media, and data access, as anticipated from the two papers on DigitalEarth Vision 2020. For example, citizen scientists received a green light from NASA to manage a government satellite for their own interests [5]. A national map project engaged citizen scientists and volunteers to collect dataon manmade structures, including schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations and other important public buildings, to be included in authoritative public databases [6]. The Giovanni system, a provider of remote sensing data and other Earth science datasets, allowed researchers to apply selected data to a broad variety of research topics. One of the focus areas is the use of Giovanni for research related to public health issues [7]. Mapping and analyzing the coverage and frequency of people’s Twitter keywords illustrated how “code, space and place” interact as people use mobile and digital technologies in their day to day lives [8]. Besides the US government’s data policies, the EU started a new initiative facilitating commercial Earth observation data use and service [9]. Technology also enables moreand more videos of Earth to be taken from space, allowing people to peer at the surface from dynamic records. High definition video of earth, either from satellites or ISS [10] [11] [12] [13], is coming closer to reality, which could enrich people with more data and a better understanding of our planet.

New ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected systems are being developed with long-term data records and analysis tools, generating knowledge and applications for Earth sciences in the big data era. The magnitude of fluorescence spread during photosynthesis prompted researchers to analyze the productivity of corn [14].A climate data fusion product, based on satellite-estimated surface PM2.5 concentrations and ground-based observations, set forth to improve the accuracy of air quality data for public health [15]. Scientists developed an event-based spatiotemporal data model to track the dynamics of drought, with four years of data from soil moisture and oceansalinity satellites [16].

In April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the final draft of its 5th Assessment Report:Working Group III, “Mitigation of Climate Change” [17]. The report is a synthesis of international scientific collaboration involving 235 authors from 58 countries. This international effort assembled a large amount of datasets generated from research of individuals and teams. Digital Earth should play an important role for enabling international collaborative research to move beyond integration, immersion, and fusion through data, Earth observation,and geo informatics technologies.

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[1] Satellitemanufacturing & launch industry to deploy 1,000+ satellites and generate$275 billion in next 10 years

[2] SpaceFoundation's 2014 report reveals continued growth in the global space economyin 2013

[3] Earthobservation enters next phase

[4] EarthScience Data Analysis in the Era of Big Data

[5] NASAsigns agreement with citizen scientists attempting to communicate with oldspacecraft

[6] USGS:No Foolin’—You Can Contribute to National Mapping

[7] Giovanni– Making Fast Connections Between NASA Remote Sensing Data and Public HealthIssues

[8] DOLLYIs Not Your Mother’s Map

[9] EU Enhances Commercial Access to Earth ObservationData
[10] NewEarth Observation Satellites & a Rush to Video Imagery from Space

[11] Urthecast’sFirst Release of Earth Imagery from Space

[12] Here'sHD Video of the World's Tallest Building—and a Flying Plane—From Space

[13] SurreySatellite Technology US introduces next-generation color video-imaging smallsatellite

[14] Satellite Shows High Productivity from US Corn Belt

[15] SaharanDust and Wildfire Smoke: An Evaluation of Enhancing AirNow with NASA SatelliteData

[16] UC Geographers Develop a System to Track the Dynamics ofDrought

[17] Weavingthe Narrative of Climate Change: The Process Behind the IPCC 5th AssessmentReport