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Observing the Earth from space

248 pages
Breaking free of the Earth's surface to look down from above is longer a mere dream.  Sophisticated instruments flown on satellites produce streams of data that, when inserted into complex information processes, increase our knowledge of the Earth system. Satellites have now revealed the limits and potential of our planet by making them “visible”.

This book describes how satellite observation offers unique support in fields such as the management of natural environments, risk prevention and post-disaster management.  Beginning with an historical review it then traces how data are constructed from the initial conception of measurements to their interpretation for use in operational systems.  Ongoing sociological surveys sketch-out some of the difficulties to be overcome to allow more widespread use of satellite data.  With the help of concrete examples such as emergency mapping for disaster management or monitoring of water resources, readers are shown how space-based observation offers potential cognitive resources for living on Earth while taking care of it.


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Copyright Dunod, 2014 9782100717682 This book was written as part of the CNES research program forhumanandsocialscience,&Espace,innovation,société&. Cover : Bora Bora Island view from Pleiades 1A © CNES (2012, 2012), all right reserved. English translation : © Dunod, Paris, 2014. All rights reserved. 5 rue Laromiguière, 75005 Paris www.dunod.com. Original French edition: "Observer la Terre depuis l'espace, Enjeux des données spatiales pour la société" Published © Dunod, Paris, 2014. ISBN 978-2-10-071284-7. Visitez notre site Web :www.dunod.com Consultez lesite Web de cet ouvrage
Ail rights reserved. This work may not be translated or copied in whole or in part without the written permission of the publisher, Dunod, 5 rue Laromiguière, 75005 Paris www.dunod.com.
Foreword This book written under the editorial supervision of Michel Avignon, Cathy Dubois and Philippe Escudier is the result of a collective project undertaken at the French Space Agency (CNES) by Michel Avignon and Cathy Dubois during a day-long seminar devoted to satellite data in November 2010. They continued working on it with Philippe Escudier while designing and facilitating the seminar ``Observer la Terre depuis l'espace'' (Observing the Earth from space) at the ``Conservatoire Nationale des Arts et Métiers'' (CNAM) under the auspices of the ``laboratoire Histoire des Technosciences en société'' (HT2S). The 2010 workshop gave them the opportunity to sketch out the issues dealt with in this book. These were then analysed in more depth in the research programme on ``Espace, innovation, société'' (Space, innovation, society) through a partnership between CNES and researchers from various laboratories: th `Groupedesociologiepragmatiqueetréflexive''è(GSPR)del'Écoledeshautesétudesensciences sociales, (EHESS) the ``laboratoire Printemps at the Versailles Saint-Quentin University'', the ``Centre Alexandre Koyré'' of the CNRS (French centre for scientific research) and also researchers from organisational and management studies at ``l'École des mines'', at ``l'École polytechnique'' and at the Paris-Créteil University. Some of the ideas presented in the book were discussed with participants at the seminar during sessions which took place at the CNAM from March 2013 to March 2014 and during the five sessions of the workshop on ``Valeurs du spatial pour la société'' (Space values for society) held at CNES from July 2012 to May 2014. Each chapter was written by one, two or three authors. The book was translated into English by a team of translators from Coup de Puce Expansion, under the supervision of Michel Avignon and Cathy Dubois. For the first chapter, Isabelle Sourbès-Verger drew on research that she had been doing for more than 20 years on space activities around the world. [English translation by John Kerr] Chapter 2 was written by Michel Avignon with additional material by Philippe Escudier. [English translation by Ian Margo] Chapter 3 was written by Gemma Cirac Claveras and then enhanced through several discussions with Michel Avignon, Isabelle Sourbès-Verger and Cathy Dubois. [English translation by Chris Collister] Chapter 4 was written by Cathy Dubois following the presentation of Hélène de Boissezon in the CNAM seminar on 20 June 2013 and which was based on the work done by the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters and that of theKAL-Haïtiproject; research by Arnaud Saint-Martin on the Charter and by Flore Guiffault onKAL-Haïtihave been drawn on to a great extent for this chapter. [English translation by John Kerr] Chapter 5 was written by Philippe Escudier and Cathy Dubois, with the help of Selma Cherchali at CNES, and that of Catherine Freyssinet and Bertrand Coirond at Société Artelia. [English translation by Cynthia Johnson] Chapter 6 was written by Francis Chateauraynaud and Josquin Debaz based on their research on coastal zones. [English translation by Ilona Bossanyi] Finally, chapter 7 was written by Jérôme Lamy and Arnaud Saint-Martin who had been working on a socio-political survey for the Copernicus project, GMES. [English translation by Ilona Bossanyi] It would be impossible to mention all of the personnel at CNES, ``Service régional de traitement d'image et de télédétection'' (Sertit) and Société CLS whose work has gone into this book. We should particularly like to thank three people at CNES, Pascale Ultre-Guérard, who heads the Earth Observation programmes and also Pierre Ulrich and Michel Delanoue who created the necessary conditions for the book to be written. Delphine Fontanaz, Catherine Proy, Alain Giros, Claire Tinel, Bernard Allenbach, and Bruno Cugny kindly devoted their time to help us find the right information. Valentina Chambrin spared no efforts to ensure the iconography met the high standards required for publication. We should also like to thank the two ``As'' for their behind-the-scenes support.
The authors Miche l AvignonPolytechnicien, engineer general at ``des ponts, des eaux et des forêts'', has been – working at CNES since 1973 ; previously head of the Space Oceanography program and then of two sub-directorates ``Aerospace Techniques'' and ``Scientific payloads and imagery'' expert on technical innovaton and policy, associate researcher at the ``Histoire des technosciences en société'' laboratory at HT2S-CNAM. Facilitator of the ``Observer la terre depuis l'espace'' seminar at CNAM. Hélène de Boissezon– Agronomy enginer, has worked at CNES since 2000, head of the image analysis and products department, in charge of the International Charter of Space and Major Disasters and KAL-Haïti activities. Francis ChateauraynaudSociologist, research director at EHESS, director of the pragmatic and – reflexive sociology group (GSPR). Noteworthy publications: with Didier TornyLes sombres précurseurs, une sociologie pragmatique de l'alerte et du risque, Paris, EHESS, 2013 (1999); with st Christian Bessy,Experts et faussaires. Pour une sociologie de la perceptionPétra, 2014 (1 Paris, édition 1995) andArgumenter dans un champ de force, essai de balistique sociologique, Paris, Pétra, 2011. Since 2006, he has been coordinating theObservatoire des alertes et des controverses developed by the GSPR with the French agency for food, environmental and occupational health & safety (ANSES). Ge mma Cirac ClaverasPhysicist, reading for a Doctor's degree in the history of sciences and – techniques at the Centre Alexandre Koyré, under the supervision of Dominique Pestre and Isabelle Sourbès-Verger. She is doing research on the dynamics of production, distribution and use of satellite data for observation and study of the Earth and the environment. Josquin Debaz– Historian of science, member of the pragmatic and reflexive sociology group (GSPR) at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), where he is doing research on environmental health issues. Cathy Dubois– Sociolinguist, designed with Michel Avignon the CNES Social and Human Science research (SHS) program on ``Space, innovation, society''. She is chairwoman of the SHS partners committee representing the research laboratories involved in the program. Associate researcher at the HT2S laboratory, she is a co-facilitator with Michel Avignon of the seminar, ``Observer la terre depuis l'espace'' at CNAM. Philippe Escudier– Engineer, SUPAERO graduate, began working at CNES in 1982, head of the Jason-1 project (study of the oceans), Director of space oceanography at CLS, a company which implements services using satellite systems for environmental management, he also coordinates CNES actions for developing space applications. Jérôme Lamy– Researcher at the PRINTEMPS laboratory (CNRS-Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University), works on the connections between the history, sociology and anthropology of science and contemporary forms of political regulation of science and techniques. In 2007 he published e e L'Observatoire de Toulouse aux XVIII et XIX siècle. Archéologie d'un espace savant(at the Presses Universitaires de Rennes) and is currently preparing a collective edition on Michel Foucault and human and social sciences (to be published by the CNRS in 2014). Arnaud Saint-MartinSociologist, researcher at CNRS (PRINTEMPS laboratory, CNRS- Versailles – Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University) is doing research on an ecological approach to scientific activities and organisations in general, focusing particularly on European space exploration. Also doing research on the social history of human and social sciences, he publishedLa sociologie de Robert K. Merton at the Éditions La Découverte in 2013. Isabelle Sourbès-VergerGeographer, researcher at CNRS, deputy Director of the Centre Alexandre – Koyré. Noteworthy publications: Author with Raymond Ghirardi and Fernand Verger ofL'espace, nouveau territoire. Atlas des satellites et des politiques spatiales, Belin, 2002, as well as of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Space, Cambridge University Press, 2003. With Denis Borel, she published Un empire très céleste, la Chine à la conquête de l'espace,Belin, 2008. She also edited a special issue ofInformation Géographique, June 2010.
The meteorological information broadcast by television has been an extremely rich vector for making us familiar with satellite views; cloud cover, hurricanes or extreme events are no longer mysterious phenomena, even more so in that the series of images produced allow us to see disasterswhile they are happening, be they floods, fires or a hurricane moving, almost as if it we could see it directly, from the open sea towards the coastlines. This was the case in August 2005 with hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico and in October 2012 with hurricane Sandy approaching the coastline of New Jersey and New York. [1] The enlisting of satellites as support for armed intervention (for the Gulf wars or the interventions of the French army in Africa), or the surveillance of nuclear activities of countries such as North Korea or [2] Iran, have renewed the public's interest in how we can use this vision from above which offers what appears to be ``obvious'' truth. If we can see it then it must be true. The ``hawk's eye view'' seems to have been commonly accepted as a reference while combining, without distinction, images produced by drones, aircraft or satellites. Symbolic of observation from space, the satellite with its gift of ``ubiquity'' rouses disquieting feelings in us mixed with fascination for the technological feat, the magical effect, conjured up by these ``views from above'' along with suspicion of ``Big Brother''. [3] The satellite images used as evidence of the planet's transformations tend to incarnate all Earth observation activity. Their proliferation and insertion in dynamic information systems accessible via Internet have created a fantasy representation which evokes the beautiful drawing of Odilon Redon,``l'œil comme un ballon bizarre se dirige vers l'infini'' (the eye, like a weird balloon drifts towards infinity).
These ``tireless observers'', ``gendarmes'' or "sentinels'' on the lookout for planetary events, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, transformation of landscapes, melting polar ice caps or displacement of populations are thus assumed to have produced a new ``vision of the world''. But what are these images really of? What do they show us? How do they transform our understanding of the world? How can they enable us to interact with our environment in a new way, and if they can, under what conditions? These ``beautiful photos'' are not all primary acquisitions and their attractiveness masks the processing and wide range of satellite measurements from which the information was elaborated. They make us forget all of the selection and staging operations which brought them into being. The disseminated ``images'' condense the manufacturing processes behind them and keep hidden in the wings, the researchers, engineers, technicians, cartographers and operators of the particular uses to which the images are put, who developed them. The images wipe out the measurements, data and complex systems combining theoretical frameworks and instruments as well as transmission, processing, computing, modelling or interpretation systems. They leave us with a feeling of an extension of our own senses and perception which would enable us to grasp the world as it is, gigantic and complex. The aim of this book is to ``unfold'' and describe a few of the operations through which the ``Earth system'' is grasped via satellite instruments, from design of the measurements to their interpretation for inclusion in operational systems and finally to their use by actors seeking cognitive resources, in order to objectify a situation or provide proof for a legal suit (see for instance the conviction for marine pollution spotted by a satellite, quoted by Francis Chateauraynaud et Josquin Debaz in chapter 6). The current expression of a ``production chain'' conjures up a linear relationship between science and society, between measurements and operational uses, and between producers and users. Understood in this
way, measurements would be strictly the business of scientists before being deployed for use in heterogeneous social arenas from laboratories to everyday places. The engineers would then be expected to design suitable technical systems, while ``translators'' would adjust them for non-scientific uses; ``users'' would adopt them for their own needs and finally entrepreneurs would seize the opportunity of a potential Eldorado by transforming the sources into new value, jobs and activities. Our book suggests another way of looking at things by showing how metrology and politics are intertwined, as are the construction of indicators or parameters and the framing of problems, because, in the realm of space activities, Earth observation raises specific issues. Of course, as Michel Avignon writes in chapter two, space-related activities all have to take into account the constraints imposed by having to break free of the Earth's gravitational field, by the hostile space environment and by the technical difficulties encountered when working with objects which, after being launched into space, can only be manipulated by humans to a limited extent and at a distance. The conception of scientific instruments and space missions for observing the Earth or exploring the universe, require close cooperation between researchers and engineers for whom measurement physics is a common background of theories, methods and models. Measurement physics is a discipline which enables scientists to construct problems and objects for study, establish experimental protocols and ways of experiencing nature. Observation requires active involvement, while nature is regarded as a separate, ``mathematical'' entity. This ``objective'' mathematical approach to nature is part of a dualistic tradition which has founded physics as a discipline for explaining the world and accounting for phenomena. Since Aristotle this method of constructing knowledge has turned out to be particularly fruitful. Using this approach to observe the Earth from space thus consists in conceiving relevant methods for ``testing the [4] Earth system'' : it also involves making hypotheses of what may be grasped, defining information vectors, measurement instruments, data formats and systems for storing, disseminating, processing and interpreting data. But, unlike the community of researchers and amateurs involved in exploring the universe, the Earth observation public is more heterogeneous, with more widely differing visions and interests. First of all, among the Earth observation public, there are scientists in different disciplines who do not all share the heritage of measurement physics, nor do they necessarily share the same ideas on observation, experimentation or the same approach to natural environments; they may, depending on their preoccupations about the world, approach reality using a wide range of investigative methods and concepts, vocabulary and scientific laws. In addition to these research communities, there are operational actors (from meteorologists to farmers) who have to make decisions and act in the world and for whom science is a resource and not a profession. Some of these scientific or non-scientific actors, whether experts or not, are themselves far from being at home with physics due to their particular experience of nature and their way of framing problems. Finally, more generally speaking, concepts developed by researchers have drawn our attention to entities that up to now have not been widely known; the preoccupation with ``sea level'' has emerged whereas previously we were only concerned with tides, and phenomena which were not well understood, such as El Niño andLa Niña,but which have been known for a long time by inhabitants on the Pacific coasts of the American continents, have been explained by the dynamic modelling of the ocean. Thus, the information developed about the Earth system has transformed the way humanity relates to itself and to the world in which it lives, by opening our eyes to its global nature, the inter-dependence of countries within vast geomorphological formations, the linking between local spaces and a global Earth system and the global effects of interactions between the compartments of this Earth system. These new categories for understanding the world, which enable us to grasp reality, have gradually been disseminated. High resolution images have been incorporated in operational systems for managing territories, cartography, monitoring urban development, agricultural surveillance or, as we shall see in chapter five, they have become decisive aids for undertaking surveys in the field when there is insufficient documentation on social reality. All space metrology, the new investigative tools provided by satellite instruments and observations linked with those of more conventional metrology, is part of a techno-scientific arsenal which encourages us to continue our quest to understand the unknown and control human destiny. They have also helped us become aware of dangers such as the finite nature of the Earth system, friction over the use of resources, and the fragility of biological and climatic equilibrium. Ultimately, the situation is one of contrasts, as we shall see.
As our knowledge increases so does our awareness and in turn our uncertainty of the future as the complexity of systems is revealed and we realize how ``uncooperative'' they are when we forecast with probabilistic models. While satellite images appear to be tangible, it is difficult to integrate the systemic information they provide in a vision of the future. The knowledge constructed does not shift into action and is difficult to articulate individually and collectively. Such knowledge requires new ways of reasoning that are more iterative, more attentive to events that are highly unlikely but that have disastrous consequences, which means that we have to accept a degree of uncertainty in more exploratory and less deterministic sequences. This kind of thinking is difficult to achieve because as Dominique Bourg and his co-authors stress ``the divorce between reason and calculation seems to have reached a point of no return, as we leave calculations entirely to all kinds of instruments. Never before have societies accumulated so many rational devices, so many means of computation, sciences and techniques, while at the same time appearing so unreasonable while more and more threats and denial pile up. It all looks as though we are doing our [5] utmost to flee or banish the little rational thought we are still capable of.'' Does this mean then that each of us must be involved in the enquiry in order to assimilate this new knowledge in our respective experience of our natural environments? The political issues along with those related to the definition of problems, of measurements, of information formats and of governance models are still largely unformulated. While climate, biodiversity or scarce resources are being investigated by scientists and are the subject of warning processes, their integration in regulated areas is a source of controversy. Populations are facing the difficulty of learning how to master the institutions and economic models needed to deal with these challenges. This has to be done while avoiding both the perspective of techno-sciences completely controlling the world and the catastrophic vision of a machine that is out of control. In this context, Earth observation data raise a new series of scientific and political issues. They are bound up in terminological ``playfulness'' in which neophytes loose their footing. The meanings of terms apparently shift from time to time with data becoming in turn, physical measurements, signals, observations, variables, parameters, indicators, images, information, etc. These terms cannot however replace each other. The chapters of this book show that they refer to specific entities each of which incorporates a precise relation to reality. The formalising of terminology must be pursued. It should be noted that the relative lack of precision of the word ``data'', combined with its widespread dissemination through the digital economy, makes the task even more difficult. As if the ``data'' existed in their own right [6] whereas ``the world does not bequeath itself to science as if it were obliged by some kind of contract''. While it would no doubt be a vain attempt today to give a complete definition, we may nevertheless try to classify data to ``knead them'', to ``get them to speak''. The innumerable interpretations possible raise a whole new series of scientific and social questions. The first of these concerns the way they should be distinguished and described. One way to begin is by describing theinstrumentsused: high or low resolution optical imagery, optical or radar interferometry, altimetry, among others. Another way is to consider thefinal uses to which they are put, which would then make a distinction between scientific research in a laboratory and more operational uses such as, for example, cartography, meteorology or oceanography. However the scientific usage is itself far from being homogeneous and operational usage relies on science for action. The wide range of formats used for the data (images, digital representations and maps in particular) is significant as well; these formats give them a life of their own, whereby they are used as input for systems of proof, debate, references and participation in public processes for representing phenomena, making decisions or acting. In these different data representations, unspecialised actors would not find the same [7] resources for acting. Their ``tangibility'' potential changes according to the way they are used in arguments. They are also associated with the ``economy of promise'' to supply eco-systemic services based on the stream of satellite data. There is a non-negligible risk of Earth observation data being restricted by `conformist''visionduetowidespreadenthusiasmfoàreverythingwhich,rightlyorwrongly,iscalled``big data''. Even though we do not know precisely which ``data'' are being referred to, they may be torn between two conceptions, that of data as common property and that of data as the petrol of the 21 century.
Notes [1]deMaack Marie-Madeleine, La guerre du Golfe ou l'introduction des moyens spatiaux dansl'art de la guerre in Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains, 2011/4 (n°244). [2]and Saint-Martin Arnaud,Debaz Josquin  See Chateauraynaud Francis, Les données satellitaires au cœur des arènes publiques. Opérateurs de factualité et interprétations critiques dans les processus d'alerte et de controverse, Rapport de la recherche exploratoire, convention CNES-GSPR,-September 2011 ; see the synthesis proposed by Arnaud Saint-Martin in ``L'évidence du point de vue satellisé'', CarnetZilsel, 18 November 2013 URL:http://zilsel.hypotheses.org/92. [3] The editorial board of the ``Sciences et vie'' magazine, in introducing a special issue entitled ``spécial terre'' in the autumn of 2013, stated that it would offer proof with one hundred satellite images that ``in thirty years everything has changed''. e [4] Barberousse Anouk, Kistler Max, Ludwig Pascal,Philosophie des sciences au XX siècle, Flammarion, Paris, 2000. pp125-150. [5](dir)Pierre-Benoît, Kaufman Alain, Dominique, Joly  Bourg Du risque à la menace, Penser la catastrophePUF, 2013. [6]Ingold Tim,Marcher avec les dragons, Zones Sensibles, Paris, 2013, p352. [7] Chateauraynaud Françis, ``L'épreuve du tangible. Expériences de l'enquête et surgissements de la preuve'', inLa croyance et l'enquête, Raisons pratiques, vol. XV, EHESS, Paris, 2004.