Brazil to launch new deforestation monitoring system that ‘sees’ through clouds

/ Rhett A. Butler

Brazil will launch a new high resolution deforestation monitoring system that will be capable of detecting forest clearing under cloudy conditions.

Brazil will launch a new high resolution deforestation monitoring system that will be capable of detecting forest clearing under cloudy conditions.

In a statement issued Monday, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said INDICAR – Imaging and Radar Deforestation Indicator – is being developed to improve Brazil’s already world-class deforestation monitoring capabilities. The system will use data from the Japanese Space Agency’s ALOS satellite, which is equipped with both cloud-penetrating radar and optical sensors, enabling Brazil for the first time to measure forest loss when visibility is obscured by clouds. Currently, Brazil monitors deforestation year round but does its annual accounting at the end of July when cloud extent is at a minimum in the Amazon.

Better resolution

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INDICAR will identify areas of deforestation above 10 hectares, an improvement from the Real Time Deforestation Detection System (DETER), which is currently used to detect forest clearing in near real-time, but is limited by its relatively coarse resolution of 25 hectares. Since DETER misses a significant proportion of deforestation, Brazil relies on PRODES (Program to Calculate Deforestation in the Amazon), which can detect areas of deforestation of more than 6.5 hectares, to make the final determination of deforestation on a year-to-year basis. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) says that DETER data should not be used to estimate annual rates of deforestation.

Deforestation falls in August

Teixeira said the latest DETER data shows deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon remains low, with 265 square kilometers of forests cleared in August 2010, down 47 percent from the 498 square kilometers cleared in August 2009. Final figures for the August 2009-July 2010 period will be released in November.

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