GEOITALY | GI-17 Global Urban Observation and Information
GEO-ITALY è un gruppo di coordinamento degli esperti italiani coinvolti nelle attività del Group on Earth Observations
GROUP ON EARTH OBSERVATIONS, GEO, Biodiversity, Disaster, Energy, Mineral, Food security, Infrastructure, Public health, Sustainable urban development, Water resources management
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GI-17 Global Urban Observation and Information

The Global Urban Observation and Information Task has set the following goals for the period of 2012-2015: (1) Improving the coordination of urban observations, monitoring, forecasting, and assessment initiatives worldwide; (2) Supporting the development of a global urban observation and analysis system; (3) Producing up-to-date information on the status and development of the urban system – from local to global scale; (4) Filling existing gaps in the integration of global urban observation with data that characterize urban ecosystems, environment, air quality and carbon emission, indicators of population density, environmental quality, quality of life, and the patterns of human environmental and infectious diseases; and (5) Developing innovative techniques in support of effective and sustainable urban development.

For the period of 2016-2025, we support the GEO’s proposal that a single GEO Initiative on urban issues will be created in the new Work Programme. All activities are continuous in nature or extensions of the GEO SB-04 activities, which make it easy for the transition in 2016.


Point of contact: Qihao Weng, Indiana State University – USA

2016 Activities
  • Global Urban Supersites Initiative (Expanded to Megacities Observation and Monitoring – MOM program: Currently supported by ESA DUE Innovators III (1/1/2015 – 12/31/2016) and Hong Kong Research Council (1/1/2016 – 12/31/2017), with partners from DLR, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Indiana State University, and National Observatory of Athens, Greece. A new partner starting in 2016 is Chinese Academy of Sciences, supported by National NSF of China (Grant No. 41201357). These projects focus on impervious surface data generation and providing the data sets for municipalities for megacities in the world.
  • Continued generation of Global Human Settlement Layers at various international and national levels and seek synergies among them. Dr. Weng has recently discussed potential collaboration with the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geo-information of China, which has developed a global land cover dataset at 30 m resolution for 2000 and 2010. A special session will be held at 2016 ISPRS Congress to discuss about it.
  • Implementing Global Urban Remote Sensing Laboratory through joint projects: This activity has one funded project with €999,870, titled “Thematic Urban Observation Hub (TUrbO-Hub), supported by ESA Thematic Exploitation Platforms (TEP) program, 1/1/2015 – 12/31/2016, with Thomas Esch, DLR, as the PI with several co-Leads of SB-04 from Indiana State, National Observatory of Athens, University of Pavia, Italy, and KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. A new project has recently been awarded €200,000 through ESA DUE INNOVATOR III on Global Urban Services using Sentinel-1/-2 data (3/1/2015-2/28/2017) to University of Pavia and KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
  • Initiate a joint project of Impervious Surface Mapping in Tropical and Subtropical Cities – ISMiTSC (Asia, Africa, and South America): This initiative focuses on urban mapping and providing datasets and EO technology services to developing countries. A preliminary research has been conducted in selected cities in South America, Africa, South and East Asia with data support from DLR and research collaboration between Chinese University of Hong Kong, Indiana State, DLR and University of Pavia. Preliminary result will be published in late 2015 via a book by CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Establish a Global Institute of Sustainable Cities (GISC) – Explore EO as a enable technology for development of sustainable cities and for supporting GEO’s objective on urban resilience and coastal resilience by supplying objective data/information on the footprint of global urbanization and assisting in the development of indicators for sustainable cities to support the UN’s sustainable development goals. This initiate has recently been funded at 5 million RMB Yuan by Fujian Normal University, China, 2015-2020.
  • The International Program on Global Urban Observation and Public Health (IPUP) – linking global urban environment monitoring with public health from space and in situ measurements: This initiative was initiated in Changsha, China, in June 2014, and has obtained support from Global Institute of Sustainable Cities (GISC), Fujian Normal University, China (PI, Q. Weng). An international workshop was held in Wuhan, China, June 17-18, 2015, to discuss about this initiative, and will continue the workshop every year.
  • Create an annual International Summer School to train and educate students and young researchers worldwide in conjunction with GEO Urban annual symposium/workshop: This initiative will be discussed further during conference of the Mapping Urban Areas from Space – MUAS 2015 at ESA – ESRIN (Frascati – Italy), November 4-5, 2015.
  • Organize Annual GEO SI-13 Symposium (in conjunction with a conference, e.g., JURSE, EORSA, or a designated workshop from a project) to showcase results, to promote GEO/GI-13 goals, to engage users, and to foster synergies among international contributors. Each symposium has a specific theme. Sponsor an urban public health workshop that will assess the integration of our data and products into public health decision makers. The 2016 Annual Global Urban Observation Symposium will be held in Fuzhou, China, in conjunction with the 4th EORSA international conference.
  • Collaboration with ISPRS and IEEE GRSS: There will be a special session (SpS18: Earth Observation from Global Land to Urban Systems) at ISPRS Congress, July 12-19, 2016, Prague, Czech, and another special session (focus on Sensors and Sensing Techniques for Urban Areas) at 2016 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, Beijing, July 10-15, 2016.
  • Facilitate publications and disseminate the results through collaboration with Elsevier and Taylor & Francis: A new Elsevier journal “Remote Sensing Applications: Society and Environment” (starting Oct. 2014) has a focused section on urban observation and applications (G. Xian; X.L. Ding, Associate Editors); A theme issue on Earth observation from global land to urban systems is planned to publish at ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing in 2016/2017; CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group will publish a book titled “Remote Sensing for Sustainability” in 2016/2017.
  • Continue to seek synergies with other GEO tasks/initiatives, such as Global Land-cover and Land-cover Change, Global Ecosystem Classification, Mapping and Inventory, Extension and Improvement of the Climate Record, and Air-borne Diseases, Air Quality and Aeroallergens; Investigation of the relationship between the thermal urban environment and heat-related morbidity and mortality.
2016 Resources


  • German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) and German Aerospace Center (DLR) in support of global urban footprint production.
  • US Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resource Observation and Science Center (EROS) in support of national land cover datasets generation.
  • “Thematic Urban Observation Hub (TUrbO-Hub), supported by ESA Thematic Exploitation Platforms (TEP) program, 1/1/2015 – 12/31/2016, led by DLR.
  • “Earth Observation for Urbanization” (EO4U)” supported by the ESA DUE-Innovators III program, 1/1/2015 – 12/31/2016, led by DLR.
  • ESA DUE INNOVATOR III on Global Urban Services using Sentinel-1/-2 data (3/1/2015-2/28/2017) awarded to University of Pavia and KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
  • “Improving the Estimation of Impervious Surfaces Using Optical and Polarimetric SAR Data in Humid Subtropical Urban Areas” supported by Hong Kong Research Grants Council led by Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1/1/2016-12/31/2017.
  • TREASURE: Thermal Risk rEduction Actions and tools for SecURE cities, supported by a European Civil Protection project, led by National Observatory of Athens, Greece.
  • “Continuous Monitoring of the Distribution of Urban Temperatures in 5 Greek Cities’ in Excellence Research Programs General Secretariat for Research and Technology (Greece)- SIEMENS awarded to National Observatory of Athens, Greece, 2014-2016.
  • DRAGON 3 (KTH, UNIPV, DLR) – “Urbanization project”: Use of European and Chinese EO data to monitor urban expansion in selected areas of P.R. China.
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Marshall Space Flight Center Interdisciplinary Science Project, “Combining satellite data and models to assess the impacts of urbanization on the continental United States surface climate”.
  • ABCC (CEODE, CAS & JRC): NSF of China project of “Comparative Study on Global Environmental Change Using Remote Sensing Technology”.
  • NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center has a long standing program to generate and provide open access to global nighttime lights from satellite data.
  • Global Talents Program of Fujian Normal University, China, in support of creation of Global Institute of Sustainable Cities.
  • Funding for projects related to the NASA National Climate Assessment program.
  • The European Commission, JRC project: “Global Human Settlement Analysis for Disaster Risk Reduction” (GLOB-HS).
  • The European Commission, JRC project “European Urban Development and Territorial Cohesion” (E-URBAN).

In-kind (human resources)

  • Global Institute of Sustainable Cities, Fujian Normal University, China;
  • Data, models, and related resources associated with US NASA Earth Science research and Earth observing remote sensing platforms such as Terra and Aqua, and the 40-year availability of continuous Landsat data;
  • Additional in-kind contributions from the USA (Indiana State University, NASA) and China (Tsinghua University, National Satellite Meteorological Center), Italy (University of Pavia), IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society.
Leads and contributors

Social Benefit Area
Implementation Mechanism

GEO Candidate Initiatives