02nd March 2022

Book in Focus
An Introduction to Applying Satellite Remote Sensing to Disaster Management

By Kazuya Kaku

In Japan, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) engages in disaster management support activities using the Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS), launched in January 2006. I have been involved in this activity of JAXA from the start. At the beginning, I did not know how satellite remote sensing could be applied to disaster management. More than 10 years have passed since then; this book summarizes the knowledge and experience gained during this period.

Satellite remote sensing is one of the primary support tools for disaster management, and the number of people involved in this field will only increase in the future; however, it is not easy to approach for a beginner. It would be a great pleasure if this was of use to people with similar situations as the author in the year 2006, by providing a brief introduction to applying satellite remote sensing to disaster management, offering an overview of satellite remote sensing, case studies on areas of disaster management to which satellite remote sensing is applicable, and a discussion of how to apply satellite remote sensing to disaster management.

Remote sensing is a technology for remotely studying the properties of objects using electromagnetic radiation, without touching the objects directly. Satellite remote sensing covers wide-ranging areas, operates continually during all hours and in all types of weather, and is used to survey Earth’s surface and atmosphere to study global environmental problems, monitor disasters, explore resources, and so on. A satellite remote sensing system consists of five components, as shown in Fig. 1-1: sources of radiation (the Sun, the Earth, and an artificial radiation source), interaction with the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface, a space segment (sensors and satellites), and a ground segment. It should be noted that “application of satellite remote sensing to disaster management” in this book refers to the employment of satellite-based disaster information/data by users and end-users working for disaster management, including rescue, relief, and evacuation; human factors (such as system operators and system users working in disaster management and response) in the ground segment as well as technical factors are important when applying satellite remote sensing to disaster management.

Fig. 1-1. Satellite remote sensing system with five components: sources of radiation, interaction with the atmosphere, interaction with the Earth’s surface, space segment, and ground segment (Curran, 1985; with modifications).

Everything that is hotter than 0 K emits electromagnetic radiation. The largest source of electromagnetic radiation is the Sun (solar radiation), and the Earth’s surface reflects and absorbs the solar radiation, as shown in Fig. 1-1. Furthermore, absorbed solar radiation raises the Earth’s temperature and is radiated back to space as thermal radiation according to its temperature (terrestrial radiation). This mechanism keeps absorbed solar radiation and emitted terrestrial radiation in balance macroscopically. Remote sensing measures the reflected solar radiation and emitted terrestrial radiation. In addition, remote sensing employs an artificial source of electromagnetic radiation; that is, the satellite itself emits electromagnetic radiation and receives the retuned electromagnetic radiation from the Earth’s surface. The former (which uses natural radiation) is called passive remote sensing; the latter (an artificial radiation source) is known as active remote sensing.

The wavelengths at which solar radiation and terrestrial radiation are employed can be shown to be almost completely distinct for remote sensing, as shown in Fig. 1-2. Although there is much more solar radiation than terrestrial radiation, because the Earth is very far from the Sun, the segregation of the solar radiation and the terrestrial radiation results at the top of the Earth’s atmosphere in satellite remote sensing. For wavelengths that are shorter than an intersection point at  (see Fig. 1-2), solar radiation is dominant, which is called the solar radiation (or “shortwave radiation”) range. For wavelengths that are longer than the intersection point, terrestrial radiation is dominant, which is called the terrestrial radiation (or “longwave radiation”) range. Solar radiation, which reached the top of the Earth’s atmosphere (see Fig. 1-2(a)), reaches the Earth’s surface through the atmosphere and is reflected by the Earth’s surface, and finally reaches sensors at the space segment through the atmosphere. In this process, solar radiation is influenced by the atmosphere that has unique spectral features of transmittance (see Fig. 1-2(c) and Section 1.1.2). Similarly, terrestrial radiation that reaches sensors at the space segment through the atmosphere is influenced by the atmosphere.

Fig. 1-2. Overview of passive satellite remote sensing with respect to (c) atmospheric windows and segregation of (a) solar radiation and (b) terrestrial radiation. Source of atmospheric transmittance: NASA Earth Observatory. (a), (b): with MAC/Graper v2.

This book has three themes:

(1) An overview of satellite remote sensing for disaster management (Part I). Satellite remote sensing is comprehensively outlined from the viewpoint of applications to disaster management in Chapters 2 to 5.

(2) Case studies on areas of disaster management to which satellite remote sensing is applicable (Part II).

(3) A holistic study on how to apply satellite remote sensing to disaster management (Part III).

This book provides an overview of satellite remote sensing, detailing how it works and for what fields of disaster management it can be used. This book is unique in the sense that it is based on 13 years of empirical study through international collaboration projects and case studies conducted by JAXA since 2006, taking human factors (users) into account. This book will particularly appeal to practitioners (such as disaster responders, policy makers, and administrative officials) and researchers in the field of disaster management who are interested in applying satellite remote sensing to disaster management, as well as researchers in the satellite-remote-sensing field (such as space agencies, universities, and research institutes) who are interested in, or working for, applications of satellite remote sensing to disaster management. Of course, people (including students) from other fields who are interested in satellite remote sensing and disaster management are also readers.



“Dr Kaku’s work is distinctive for this research domain. This research may indeed prove to be significant to fellow researchers and scientists working in the same discipline. This book provides a comprehensive and detailed description of his research.”
Dr Stephen E. Haggerty
Editor, Global Journal of Human-Social Science (GJHSS)

“This book is of great value. [It] provides a comprehensive and detailed framework for emergency response in massive disasters with satellite remote sensing. This book does not require a technical background to read; instead, it shows many case studies for satellite remote sensing applications and practical usages for disaster with basic principle of satellite remote sensing technology. […] This book is good for policy makers, administrative officials, and young students.”
Professor Masahiko Nagai
Director, Center for Research and Application for Satellite Remote Sensing, Yamaguchi University, Japan

“The book provides holistic understanding [of the] application of satellite remote sensing to disaster management. [Its] explanation pertaining to application of remote sensing during each phase of disaster management broadens the understanding [of] technology driven alternatives to effective disaster response and management. Case studies with response to heavy rain, earthquakes, flood, volcano monitoring, wildfires and glacial lake outburst flood further demonstrate the application for satellite remote sensing. Apart from technical aspects, the book also addresses effectiveness of disaster responsive space programmes and international collaborations. [Its] detailed framework for applying satellite remote sensing to disaster management is very well illustrated and can be of great help to practitioners, researchers, academicians and students.”
Dr Dhruvi Bharwad
Social Research Officer, Space Applications Centre (SAC), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), India

“This is a unique book that covers all aspects of the disaster prevention and management applications of space technology. In particular, there are many specialized books and academic papers on remote sensing on satellite image analysis technology, but this book focuses on policy issues such as examples of disaster management, why it was successful, and frameworks, etc. This book is very useful and recommended for those who are interested in such activities and want to improve disaster management in their countries.”
Dr Shiro Kawakita
Senior Engineer, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Japan; Secretariat, Sentinel Asia

“This book is a good, probably the first, primer for those who are working in disaster risk reduction, such as emergency responders, policy makers, administrative officials, researchers and students. It covers (1) the basic principles of satellite remote sensing as a technology and the entire satellite remote sensing as a system, which are easy to understand with many illustrations; (2) many case studies based on collaboration between satellite-remote-sensing experts and disaster management practitioners who are the users of satellite-remote-sensing data/information products, which clearly demonstrate how satellite remote sensing can support disaster management operations in collaboration with the users; and (3) a holistic study based on case studies, which derives requirements for applying satellite remote sensing technology to disaster management. [The] user-oriented approach is also a feature of this book; probably no one can find similar books.”
Koji Suzuki
Executive Director, Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC), Japan; Visiting Professor, Kobe University, Japan; Co-Chair, Emergency Preparedness Working Group of APEC   

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Kazuya Kaku received a Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics and Physics from Kyoto University, Japan, in 1978 and a PhD from the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology of Hokkaido University, Japan, in 2010. He previously worked with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Sentinel Asia project to support disaster management in the Asia-Pacific region by applying satellite remote sensing and Web-GIS technologies. He is currently a Visiting Researcher at the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC), Japan.

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An Introduction to Applying Satellite Remote Sensing to Disaster Management is available now in Hardback at a 25% discount. Enter code PROMO25 at checkout to redeem. eBook available from Google Play.

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