Impacts of Climate Change and Land Use on the Southwestern United States
Wind Erosion Vulnerability and Rainfall Mapping in the Southwestern United States

Change Detection


Because many aspects of global climatic change reflect changes in the environment, such as aridification and human-induced impacts to ecosystems, change detection and mapping using satellite image data provide a valuable research and monitoring tool. As an example, the automatic change detection results generated using two multitemporal Landsat MSS images of Phoenix, Arizona are shown below. Two radiometrically calibrated MSS images taken 18 years apart were used to generate a digital change image. This image product shows the potential of using remotely sensed images for change detection in arid/semi-arid environments and for studying not only surficial processes in the desert (including subtle changes in vegetation and bedforms), but also to map changes caused by human disturbance. This type of change detection procedure can help document and evaluate changes that have occurred on interannual and/or seasonal basis. In this change image shades of red implies that the surface was more vegetated in 1992 than in 1974 and shades of blue more vegetated in 1974 than in 1992. Notice that changes can be seen in the surrounding desert vegetation, as well as in agricultural and urban areas. The left image was recorded on August 31, 1974 and the middle image on August 27, 1992; the image on the right is the digital change image generated using these two data sets.

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Phoenix -- MSS 1974/1992/Change Images

A second change detection example using multitemporal Landsat MSS images is presented to further show the potential use of remotely sensed satellite data to study the desert environment, map eolian erosion, and monitor global change. The images were used to detect vegetation changes in the desert; they cover parts of extreme southwestern Arizona, including the area around Yuma. The first pair of Landsat MSS images detects changes between a wet (April 4) and dry (July 1) season in 1992. The second pair of images below are the Landsat MSS band 5 and their corresponding digital change image for the same area; however, these images were recorded on February 24, 1981 (dry year) and February 26, 1984 (wet/El Nino year). In both sets of images the dark tones in the change image represent areas that were more vegetated during the wet season/year and the brighter tones are areas that were more vegetated during the dry season/year (mostly agricultural areas/crops).

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Yuma -- MSS Wet/Dry Seasonal Change Comparison

Yuma -- MSS Wet/Dry Years Change Comparison


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