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  • Meteorological Influences of a Major Dust Storm in Southwest Asia during July–August 2018

    Abstract: Dust storms can be hazardous for aviation, military activities, and respiratory health and can occur on a wide variety of spatiotemporal scales with little to no warning. To properly forecast these storms, a comprehensive understanding of the meteorological dynamics that control their evolution is a prerequisite. To that end, we chose a major dust storm that occurred in Southwest Asia during July–August 2018 and conducted an observation-based analysis of the meteorological conditions that influenced the storm’s evolution. We found that the main impetus behind the dust storm was a large-scale meteorological system (i.e., a cyclone) that affected Southwest Asia. It seems that cascading effects from this system produced a smaller, near-surface warm anomaly in Mesopotamia that may have triggered the dust storm, guided its trajectory over the Arabian Peninsula, and potentially catalyzed the development of a small low-pressure system over the southeastern end of the peninsula. This low-pressure system may have contributed to some convective activity over the same region. This type of analysis may provide important information about large-scale meteorological forcings for not only this particular dust storm but also for future dust storms in Southwest Asia and other regions of the world.
  • Landform Identification in the Chihuahuan Desert for Dust Source Characterization Applications: Developing a Landform Reference Data Set

    Abstract: ERDC-Geo is a surface erodibility parameterization developed to improve dust predictions in weather forecasting models. Geomorphic landform maps used in ERDC-Geo link surface dust emission potential to landform type. Using a previously generated southwest United States landform map as training data, a classification model based on machine learning (ML) was established to generate ERDC-Geo input data. To evaluate the ability of the ML model to accurately classify landforms, an independent reference landform data set was created for areas in the Chihuahuan Desert. The reference landform data set was generated using two separate map-ping methodologies: one based on in situ observations, and another based on the interpretation of satellite imagery. Existing geospatial data layers and recommendations from local rangeland experts guided site selections for both in situ and remote landform identification. A total of 18 landform types were mapped across 128 sites in New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico using the in situ (31 sites) and remote (97 sites) techniques. The final data set is critical for evaluating the ML-classification model and, ultimately, for improving dust forecasting models.
  • Automated Detection of Austere Entry Landing Zones: A “GRAIL Tools” Validation Assessment

    Abstract: The Geospatial Remote Assessment for Ingress Locations (GRAIL) Tools software is a geospatial product developed to locate austere entry landing zones (LZs) for military aircraft. Using spatial datasets like land classification and slope, along with predefined LZ geometry specifications, GRAIL Tools generates binary suitability filters that distinguish between suitable and unsuitable terrain. GRAIL Tools combines input suitability filters, searches for LZs at user‐defined orientations, and plots results. To refine GRAIL Tools, we: (a) verified software output; (b) conducted validation assessments using five unpaved LZ sites; and (c) assessed input dataset resolution on outcomes using 30 and 1‐m datasets. The software was verified and validated in California and the Baltics, and all five LZs were correctly identified in either the 30 or the 1‐m data. The 30‐m data provided numerous LZs for consideration, while the 1‐m data highlighted hazardous conditions undetected in the 30‐m data. Digital elevation model grid size affected results, as 1‐m data produced overestimated slope values. Resampling the data to 5 m resulted in more realistic slopes. Results indicate GRAIL Tools is an asset the military can use to rapidly assess terrain conditions.
  • Remote Sensing Capabilities to Support EWN® Projects: An R&D Approach to Improve Project Efficiencies and Quantify Performance

    PURPOSE: Engineering With Nature (EWN®) is a US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Initiative and Program that promotes more sustainable practices for delivering economic, environmental, and social benefits through collaborative processes. As the number and variety of EWN® projects continue to grow and evolve, there is an increasing opportunity to improve how to quantify their benefits and communicate them to the public. Recent advancements in remote sensing technologies are significant for EWN® because they can provide project-relevant detail across a large areal extent, in which traditional survey methods may be complex due to site access limitations. These technologies encompass a suite of spatial and temporal data collection and processing techniques used to characterize Earth's surface properties and conditions that would otherwise be difficult to assess. This document aims to describe the general underpinnings and utility of remote sensing technologies and applications for use: (1) in specific phases of the EWN® project life cycle; (2) with specific EWN® project types; and (3) in the quantification and assessment of project implementation, performance, and benefits.
  • User Guide: The DEM Breakline and Differencing Analysis Tool—Gridded Elevation Model Analysis with a Convenient Graphical User Interface

    Abstract: Gridded elevation models of the earth’s surface derived from airborne lidar data or other sources can provide qualitative and quantitative information about the terrain and its surface features through analysis of the local spatial variation in elevation. The DEM Breakline and Differencing Analysis Tool was developed to extract and display micro-terrain features and vegetative cover based on the numerical modeling of elevation discontinuities or breaklines (breaks-in-slope), slope, terrain ruggedness, local surface optima, and the local elevation difference between first surface and bare earth input models. Using numerical algorithms developed in-house at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Geospatial Research Laboratory, various parameters are calculated for each cell in the model matrix in an initial processing phase. The results are combined and thresholded by the user in different ways for display and analysis. A graphical user interface provides control of input models, processing, and display as color-mapped overlays. Output displays can be saved as images, and the overlay data can be saved as raster layers for input into geographic information systems for further analysis.
  • Evaluation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Flood Risk Management: Results of Terrain and Structure Assessments

    Abstract: The 2017 Duck Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Pilot Experiment was conducted by the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, Field Research Facility (FRF), to assess the potential for different UAS to support US Army Corps of Engineers coastal and flood risk management. By involving participants from multiple ERDC laboratories, federal agencies, academia, and private industry, the work unit leads were able to leverage assets, resources, and expertise to assess data from multiple UAS. This report compares datasets from several UAS to assess their potential to survey and observe coastal terrain and structures. In this report, UAS data product accuracy was analyzed within the context of three potential applications: (1) general coastal terrain survey accuracy across the FRF property; (2) small-scale feature detection and observation within the experiment infrastructure area; and (3) accuracy for surveying coastal foredunes. The report concludes by presenting tradeoffs between UAS accuracy and the cost to operate to aid in selection of the best UAS for a particular task. While the technology and exact UAS models vary through time, the lessons learned from this study illustrate that UAS are available at a variety of costs to satisfy varying coastal management data needs.
  • A Review of Empirical Algorithms for the Detection and Quantification of Harmful Algal Blooms Using Satellite-Borne Remote Sensing

    Abstract: Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) continue to be a global concern, especially since predicting bloom events including the intensity, extent, and geographic location, remain difficult. However, remote sensing platforms are useful tools for monitoring HABs across space and time. The main objective of this review was to explore the scientific literature to develop a near-comprehensive list of spectrally derived empirical algorithms for satellite imagers commonly utilized for the detection and quantification HABs and water quality indicators. This review identified the 29 WorldView-2 MSI algorithms, 25 Sentinel-2 MSI algorithms, 32 Landsat-8 OLI algorithms, 9 MODIS algorithms, and 64 MERIS/Sentinel-3 OLCI algorithms. This review also revealed most empirical-based algorithms fell into one of the following general formulas: two-band difference algorithm (2BDA), three-band difference algorithm (3BDA), normalized-difference chlorophyll index (NDCI), or the cyanobacterial index (CI). New empirical algorithm development appears to be constrained, at least in part, due to the limited number of HAB-associated spectral features detectable in currently operational imagers. However, these algorithms provide a foundation for future algorithm development as new sensors, technologies, and platforms emerge.
  • Data Collection Tools for River Geomorphology Studies: LiDAR and Traditional Methods

    Abstract: The purpose of this review is to highlight LiDAR data usage for geomorphic studies and compare to other remote sensing technologies. This review further identifies survey efficiencies and issues that can be problematic in using LiDAR digital elevation models (DEMs) in completing surveys and geomorphic analysis. US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) geospatial data collection guidance (EM 1110-1-1000) (USACE 2015) aligns with the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing Positional Accuracy Standards for Digital Geospatial Data (ASPRS 2014). Geomorphic assessment technologies are rapidly evolving, and LiDAR data collection methods are at the forefront. The FluvialGeomorph (FG) toolbox, developed to support USACE watershed planning, is a recent example of the use of LiDAR high-resolution terrain data to provide a new, efficient approach for rapid watershed assessments (Haring et al. 2020; Haring and Biedenharn 2021). However, there are advantages and disadvantages in using LiDAR data compared to other remote sensing technologies and traditional topographic field survey methods.
  • Joint Chilean and US Mobility Testing in Extreme Environments

    Abstract: Vehicle mobility in cold and challenging terrains is of interest to both the US and Chilean Armies. Mobility in winter conditions is highly vehicle dependent with autonomous vehicles experiencing additional challenges over manned vehicles. They lack the ability to make informed decisions based on what they are “seeing” and instead need to rely on input from sensors on the vehicle, or from Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) or satellite data collections. This work focuses on onboard vehicle Controller Area Network (CAN) Bus sensors, driver input sensors, and some externally mounted sensors to assist with terrain identification and overall vehicle mobility. Analysis of winter vehicle/sensor data collected in collaboration with the Chilean Army in Lonquimay, Chile during July and August 2019 will be discussed in this report.
  • Evaluating Drone Truthing as an Alternative to Ground Truthing: An Example with Wetland Plant Identification

    Purpose: Satellite remote sensing of wetlands provides many advantages to traditional monitoring and mapping methods. However, remote sensing often remains reliant on labor- and resource- intensive ground truth data for wetland vegetation identification through image classification training and accuracy assessments. Therefore, this study sought to evaluate the use of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) data as an alternative or supplement to traditional ground truthing techniques in support of remote sensing for identifying and mapping wetland vegetation.