Scientists Use Landsat to Forecast Landscape Change

by | Oct 1, 2014


The FORE-SCE model was used to generate a projection of developed land (red) in the Baltimore-Washington area in 2050.

Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science Center developed a model that uses Landsat imagery to measure and map land-use change. The FOREcasting SCEnarios of land-cover change (FORE-SCE) model generates maps at 250-meter resolution, with information for 17 different land-use and land-cover classes.

FORE-SCE is being applied to research and assess greenhouse gas fluxes and carbon storage. As part of the project, annual land-cover maps have been produced since 1992, with projected maps of four different scenarios through 2100 for the entire conterminous United States. The maps have been tuned to the scenarios defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) so they can be used to measure actual climate impacts based on IPCC projections.

In addition to the forecast toward 2100, FORE-SCE is being used to produce backcast historical land-cover maps. Historical data sources, such as population census data, historical agricultural census data, wetland change inventories and forest databases, are used to produce annual land-cover maps going back to 1938. The resulting set of annual land-cover maps from 1938 through 2100 will be completed by early 2015.

Image courtesy of USGS.

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