Summary
Earth observation (EO) is the gathering of information about the physical, chemical, and biological systems of the planet Earth. It can be performed via remote-sensing technologies (Earth observation satellites) or through direct-contact sensors in ground-based or airborne platforms (such as weather stations and weather balloons, for example). According to the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the concept encompasses both "space-based or remotely-sensed data, as well as ground-based or in situ data". Earth observation is used to monitor and assess the status of and changes in natural and built environments. In Europe, Earth observation has often been used to refer to satellite-based remote sensing, but the term is also used to refer to any form of observations of the Earth system, including in situ and airborne observations, for example. The GEO, which has over 100 member countries and over 100 participating organizations, uses EO in this broader sense. In the US, the term remote sensing was used since the 1960s to refer to satellite-based remote sensing. Remote sensing has also been used more broadly for observations using any form of remote sensing technology, including airborne sensors and even ground-based sensors such as cameras. Perhaps the least ambiguous term to use for satellite-based sensors is satellite remote sensing (SRS), an acronym which is gradually starting to appear in the literature. Earth observations may include: numerical measurements taken by a thermometer, wind gauge, ocean buoy, altimeter or seismometer photos and radar or sonar images taken from ground or ocean-based instruments photos and radar images taken from remote-sensing satellites decision-support tools based on processed information, such as maps and models Just as Earth observations consist of a wide variety of possible elements, they can be applied to a wide variety of uses.
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