Special Interest Groups

EARSeL Special Interest Groups

The main scientific efforts of EARSeL are concentrated in Special Interest Groups (SIGs). These SIGs form the foundation of the activities of EARSeL and its 'raison d'être'. They encourage co-operation and foster innovative applications of remote sensing. The science is at its highest level, the state-of-the-art is well established and advances are being made and are foreseen.

The SIGs are very valuable to the scientific community and they are also of great value to the sponsoring bodies. They represent a means to understand and evaluate the major problems to be tackled in the future by the scientific community, their importance and their influence for the citizens in Europe. SIGs can be instrumental in the design and the definition of future space missions.

The SIGs organise workhops and specialist meetings, the reports and proceedings of which are published. The conclusions and specific recommendations are presented to the sponsoring agencies and other relevant institutions.

Present SIGs:

The SIG Remote Sensing of the Coastal Zone is a platform for information exchange among people interested in:

    - the physical dynamics of currents, tides, waves and sediment transport,
    - the flux and transformation of chemical and biological seawater constituents including pollutants,
    - the relevance of physical conditions for biological and chemical processes,
    - morphodynamical processes and their relevance for coastal engineering,
    - the relevance of these factors for living conditions, tourism, shipping and economy

and their investigation with Remote Sensing. This covers the microwave, visible and infrared spectral range, active and passive methods, algorithms for data interpretation, ground truth methods, and modeling of processes using parameters for starting conditions and output validation that can be remotely sensed.

The Special Interest Group Remote Sensing of the Coastal Zone is a synthesis and continuation of the

    - SIG Lidar Remote Sensing of Land and Sea, and the
    - SIG Water Applications

which have been active with great success, and shall bring their most relevant ocean-related topics together.

The Special Interest Group on Remote Sensing for Cultural and Natural Heritage is addressed to researchers interested in the application of active and passive Remote Sensing technologies (ground, aerial and satellite) and Information Technologies for archaeological investigation, protection and valorization of Cultural Heritage The scope is the creation of a network of experts from various disciplines, such as archaeology, remote sensing, geophysics , photogrammetry, geoarchaeology, computer science, interested in the use of technologies for archaeological investigation, protection and valorization of Cultural Heritage.

The principal activities are:

    - Creating and updating of a web site where project results and papers are disseminated and
    - personal links between researchers and on student mobility are promoted;
    - Being a Forum;
    - Stimulating and promoting education and training related to application of remote sensing, GIS and IT;
    - Organizing workshops, tutorials and special conference sessions;
    - Initiating and co-ordinating application-oriented research.

Remote sensing is an excellent tool for mapping, monitoring and modeling of environmental variables and processes. Especially in developing counties, remote sensing offers a unique access to primary data about the status of land surfaces. There is a high demand in studies on urbanization, land use cover change, salinisation, etc. This group concentrates on identifying and solving these problems, bringing together scientists from all over the world to exchange their experiences and expertise.

The Special Interest Group aims to make the results obtained at the more than 250 EARSeL member institutes available to the public. Remote sensing of the earth covers many topics that are significant for all natural science disciplines in school and university curricula. Satellite imagery and data derived from satellite sensors are available from studies of local or regional phenomena. This covers larger scales, as it is typical for remote sensing using satellites, but also the region around schools, and allows thus to point out the dependence between local and global scales. Remote sensing data are used to explain actual conditions on earth. But they also allow to outline the methods for predicting future developments – e.g. of the climate system – with models.

The basic activity of the Forest Fire Special Interest Group (FF-SIG) is to establish personal contacts among researchers interested in the application of Remote Sensing and GIS technologies to forest fire research. We plan to foster communication among members, by maintaining a web site where project results and papers can be disseminated, and personal links between researchers and student mobility be promoted. Periodic seminars and workshops will also be organized.

The goal of the SIG Forestry is to set up a platform for co-operation and information exchange among people interested in development of forest mapping methods, assessment of biophysical parameters, monitoring of the human and natural impacts (insects, wind), change detection, etc. Imagery from a range of EO sensors (VHRS optical, hyperspectral, lidar, radar, digital aerial photographs) are utilised in both research and application oriented projects. The results are periodically presented in SIG workshops, which are often organised in co-operation with similar groups within IUFRO and ISPRS. The SIG topics are also presented within the annual EARSeL Symposium. Other activities include searching for joint project funding, arranging free sensor datasets, or ground truth reference data for algorithm testing.

Remote sensing provides efficient data and effective methods for many geological applications such as mapping, water monitoring, mineral exploration and geohazards. Remote sensing data are useful because they can provide very accurate, up-to-date information for almost every place on the planet. The use of remote sensing data allows effective localization of targets and reducing costs and time spent during the field work. Optical, radar and thermal data can be used in many different "Geological Applications".

Topics of interest:

    - geological mapping
    - tectonic geology
    - mine monitoring
    - hydrogeology
    - geomorphology
    - geohazards (landslides, floods, earthquakes)

EARSeL's Special Interest Group Imaging Spectroscopy is a forum for international discussion amongst remote sensing specialists working with this new Earth observation technology. The SIG-IS promotes quantitative approaches in Earth observation and tries to present an integrated view on hyperspectral sensors, calibration, data evaluation and applications thus bringing together experts from universities, institutes and commercial enterprises at scientific meetings.

The Special Interest Group Land Ice and Snow (LIS-SIG) intends to be a forum for the remote sensing community interested in remote sensing of land ice and snow. It aims at:

    - a better understanding of the fundamentals of remote sensing of the cryosphere,
    - the development of techniques and tools for analysing remote sensing data in respect to snow and land ice,
    - the application of remote sensing data in related topics such as snow hydrology, glaciology, etc.

Topics of the Special Interest Group on Land Use / Land Cover are:

    - Land use and land cover mapping and Land use cover change
    - Land degradation & desertification, and ecological aspects of land use / land cover
    - Integration of land use / land cover products into modelling, including accuracy, quality and scale aspects
    - Multi-sensor approaches, and applications with new sensor systems
    - Pre-processing requirements & standards.

The Special Interest Group Radar Remote Sensing focuses on research and applications related to synthetic aperture radar. Topics of interest are:

    - Synthetic Aperture Radar in its various aspects
    - Object detection and recognition from SAR data
    - SAR Interferometry and Polarimetry
    - Ground-based SAR
    - Differential InSAR
    - High-resolution airborne and satellite radar data

Many years ago EARSeL began the process of establishing a Special Interest Group on time series analysis of remotely sensed data. This action was stimulated by the open and mostly free access to satellite data archives providing the opportunity to study, for example, environmental changes over a period of more than 30 years which is the minimum time needed to study impacts of climate change. It is no surprise that timeseries analysis of satellite data is a growing field of interest in various scientific disciplines and the use of “old” data experiences a kind of renaissance. Furthermore there is intensive use of new sensors providing data with global coverage in a very short time-scale and enabling in-depth analysis of environmental processes and anthropogenic impacts.

The following topics are an interesting start of this new SIG:

    - overview of existing data archives, e.g., Landsat, NOAA-AVHRR, MODIS, ERS 1 and 2, InSAR, etc.
    - methodological requirements on multitemporal data calibration and correction, and on geometric accuracy of old satellite data
    - existing tools for time series analysis in commercial software packages
    - development of improved/sophisticated algorithms for change detection
    - vegetation dynamics and ecological processes
    - high resolution time series from Thermal Infrared cameras - the link to boundary layer meteorology and process studies.

It is obvious that the activities of this Special Interest Group are closely related to many other EARSeL SIGs. Therefore a close co-operation is foreseen. The development of sophisticated algorithms is an especially important task.

SIG-TRS has the goal to bring the thermal remote sensing community within Europe - but also beyond - closer together. As indicated on our website we hope for interested participants from varying fields - be it LST retrieval or emissivity studies, volcano analyses or urban heat islands, forest fires or mineral mapping.


Urban Areas are growing rapidly in all countries of the world. Urban growth and its associated problems are very challenging tasks in which remote sensing imageries could help to get up-to-date information. During the last decades and especially during the last few years we recognized rapid advances in the imaging technology (e.g. high spatial resolution) and in the image analysis techniques. According to the growing awareness of urban areas, agglomerations and mega cities more and more scientists focus on topic related to them. To further support research and information exchange in this area EARSeL established a new SIG "Urban Remote Sensing".


    - to be a forum for the community interested in use of remote sensing and GIS for urban areas.
    - to organize workshops, tutorials and special conference sessions to disseminate urban remote sensing knowledge.
    - to bring together experts from the various remote sensing agencies working in the field of remote sensing and GIS for urban areas
    - to create a forum for international discussion to better prepare the urban remote sensing and geography communities for new developments in technology and application.

The three-dimensional shape of the Earth has become of major importance for several remote sensing applications in the last years, thanks to the continuously increased ground resolution of optical and radar sensors.

Topics like the geometrical correction of the remote sensed imagery through models for image orientation and geo-referencing and the discrete 3-D representation of the surface of the Earth through Digital Surface, Elevation and Terrain Models (DSMs, DEMs, DTMs) based on remotely sensed imagery are of primary importance.

The discrete 3-D representation of the surface of the Earth is a basis for a large and increasing variety of applications in Engineering, Earth and Environmental Science, Safety and Security (terrain analysis, flood prediction, coastal mapping, erosion control, determination of subsidence, noise and gas propagation, telecommunications planning, ...), so that methodologies and technics related to the different steps of DSMs, DEMs and DTMs generation and quality control are in the centre of the SIG 3D Remote Sensing.

The SIG strongly encourages both the cooperation with other international associations involved in similar topics as ISPRS, ASPRS, IEEE-GRSS, IAG and the networking and technology transfer among the academia and professionals, government entities and industry which are involved in remote sensing research and applications at European level and beyond.


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Last update 06-12-2014