Characterising regimes of land stress across the Indo-Gangetic Plain using Earth Observation data

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


Earth observation (EO) sensors on satellite platforms can be used to remotely study vulnerable regions of the world that are in need of monitoring capabilities on scales that cannot be attained by ground- based instruments.

In this project we will use the first land surface temperature climate data record from the Along Track Scanning Radiometer series of instruments, designed and calibrated using STFC expertise, to map long-term land use changes across the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP). Rapidly increasing urbanisation, degrading air quality and an increasing demand for groundwater is adding additional pressures to the natural ecosystem within the IGP, recently highlighted as one of the most polluted regions by the World Health Organisation.

As science and technology communities in the UK are being directed towards research that provides social and economic benefits to developing nations, it is imperative that we develop innovative methods on how to use UK-led EO science to aid governments and communities in the developing world to make informed decisions about protecting their natural food and water resources and more effective urban planning.

Additionally, this project aims to further develop existing relationships and create new partnerships between STFC and EO, instrumentation and technology communities in India.

Planned Impact

This project is an exploratory study to determine how to use EO datasets produced using STFC technology to address the Global Challenges. With North-West India the area of focus, a key aim is to generate new avenues of knowledge exchange between the UK and key Indian stakeholders from academic and non-academic end users. The impacts envisaged in this project are listed below.

Impact of Exploration Activity:
The most significant outcome of this project will be the demonstration of how to integrate environmental changes detected in EO data with real world situations that fit within the remit of the United Nations Sustainable development goals* . This project will be the first time climate data records from the Along Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) are used to study large-scale changes in land use due to agricultural, urban development and irrigation processes across the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) in India. As evidenced by the lack of publications, there could be much more extensive use of remote sensing datasets to study the IGP. From direct exchange with people on the ground, Gupta and Sembhi have knowledge of the complex and interrelated issues (increased rate of urbanisation, declining water availability in the IGP, degrading quality of air) facing communities in the IGP, which has already been identified as a region of key importance by other research councils leaders**. This demonstrator project could be used as an evaluation tool by the Indian modelling community (i.e the Indian Meteorological Department) and policy- makers to identify specific problem areas of land-use land-change. Through Remedios's knowledge of EO applications, the potential to apply ATSR (and other EO) datasets to larger environmental issues in India and other Official Development Assistance (ODA) regions of world will allow greater access to forthcoming ODA funding streams (i.e Newton fund) for STFC, NCEO and the project participants.

Impact of Engagement and Knowledge Exchange:
Potential partners in India that are involved in new technologies or have a need to use EO data within their research have already been identified. A meeting is already scheduled between the University of Leicester, Imperial College and IIT- Kanpur project partner (London, 15th September 2016) thus providing evidence of the commitment to this project from both Indian and UK project partners. Both Imperial College and the University of Leicester have strong relationships with STFC through RAL-Space and NCEO. Due to the nature of this project, we expect to involve STFC calibration and radiative transfer experts from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Engagement with the public will take place through a joint Leicester, Imperial College, STFC press release to the local Leicester newspaper, Leicester Mercury which we expect will resonate with the large percent of India diaspora in Leicester. Given the expert knowledge base of the project coordinators at the University of Leicester and Imperial College, potential for building new research links to other science and technology capabilities with STFC will also be explored.
Finally, this project provides the first steps towards finding links between UK EO datasets to specific United Nations sustainable Global Challenges (particularly challenges 2, 5,6,12 and 16) in which sustainable consumption, gender equality and determining pathways to resilience practises in agriculture and water resource management are essential (

*Highlighted by Nick Veck (Catapult), NERC KEN meeting, Lancaster, 4th to 5th July 2016
**Duncan Wingham expressing NERC interest in the Ganges


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Description The research has showed that there is an inherent need for improved observations and modelling of the Indo-Gangetic plain and an appetite amongst scientists in that region to understand better the sensitivity of particularly agriculture to land surface temperatures.
Exploitation Route Farmers will be interested in further development of space-based solutions. Information providers will be interested in the value of STFC data technologies alongside the Earth Observation skills of academics, e.g. in Leicester.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Healthcare

Description STFC global challenges project workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We had a small workshop 'Characterising land stress across the Indo-Gangetic Plain' with Prof Sachi Tripathi and his team consisting of early career researchers and PhD students. We gave an overview of our analysis of LST across the Indo Gangetic Plain. We had a knowledge exchange session on AATSR, land sensing through EO and in situ instrumentation with the students. We visited the IIT Kanpur field site to see where we can set up a LST validation site.

This was held on Wednesday 21st June to Friday 23rd June 2017 at VH meeting room, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur and the participants were from IIT-Kanpur and the University of Leicester/NCEO
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017