High-resolution data can have a direct impact on human safety. Satellite data, such as that gathered by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), can be used to track climate-related or extreme events, such as flooding, storm surge, or volcanic eruptions. Tracking allows for planning and mitigation of the impacts of potentially dangerous occurrences—the type of planning that can save lives.
SRTM is a collaborative mission, the consequence of teamwork between NASA, the U.S. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the German Aerospace Center and the Italian Space Agency. SRTM data can provide detailed topographic maps, including three-dimensional mapping. This satellite is capable of gathering data at a 30-meter resolution. Previously, the data was only openly released at a lower 90-meter resolution.
In September, U.S. President Obama announced that this would change. At the United Nations Heads of Climate Summit, it was revealed that the decision had been made to release 30-meter resolution SRTM data as part of a movement to encourage nations to promote the development of climate resiliency.
In order to help facilitate use of these newly offered data sets, workshops and online training will be led by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) in partnership with the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
The data will be released region by region via the USGS website Earth Explorer. Data for Africa has already been made available and is being utilized to enhance soil mapping. Data for Latin America and the Caribbean are next in line to be shared, and data for all regions of the globe should be available by September 2015.