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Colloquium - León

Advanced Computing in Remote Sensing for the Environment
Pedro León
CENAT, CONARE and University of Costa Rica
10/12/2006
11:30am-1:00pm

Advances in computer sciences and allied technologies during the past half century have impacted many fields of human endeavor including mathematics, physics, chemistry and the biological sciences. Molecular biology, for instance, emerged with the advent of computers and the programming of appropriate software for sequence analysis, making possible the genome era. This is partly due to the limited capacity of the human brain for tasks such as the analysis of long DNA sequences. Evidently the advances in computer science have also impacted the humanities beginning with internet communication and the development of the Web at CERN.

The last half century also brought home the fact that planet Earth where humans survive autonomously (without gear), is a mere thin slice of the surface where conditions are favorable. The expansion of the human population and the spread of technology are clearly having an impact on the Earth's atmosphere, on the ozone layer and on the increasing levels of greenhouse gases. Global Earth observations of the surface using remote sensing tools have become important sources of information for decision makers in many fields: forestry, urban planning, disaster risk assessment, management and protection of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, climate change and sea-level rise, to cite a few.

The Center for High Technologies (CENAT) was created by the Council of Rectors of the four public universities: UCR, UNA, ITCR and EUNED. It is developing advanced techniques in computer science to intersect with the nanotechnology lab LANOTEC and the remote sensing program (PRIAS). In collaboration with NASA, PRIAS has completed two whole-country missions during the early months of the year with the least cloud-cover during 2003 and 2005. The WB57 aircraft with an ASCOT guiding system was geared to photograph, first at 50,000 feet and during the second mission at 25,000 feet with optical and digital cameras and hyperspectral and thermal sensors. During the last mission the LIDAR active sensor was also used to analyze selected regions of the country with a high resolution topographic sensor that can measure the forest canopy height, as well as a miniaturized mass spectrometer AVEMS around volcanic peaks. Software to automate the process of image ortho-rectification is under construction, to deal with a large data base of 6000 RPC-30 color photographs digitized into a 3 terabyte data base.

Sponsored by the Center for Lifelong Learning & Design.

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