Mapping land cover change over continental Africa using Landsat and Google Earth Engine cloud computing

PLoS One. 2017 Sep 27;12(9):e0184926. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184926. eCollection 2017.


Quantifying and monitoring the spatial and temporal dynamics of the global land cover is critical for better understanding many of the Earth's land surface processes. However, the lack of regularly updated, continental-scale, and high spatial resolution (30 m) land cover data limit our ability to better understand the spatial extent and the temporal dynamics of land surface changes. Despite the free availability of high spatial resolution Landsat satellite data, continental-scale land cover mapping using high resolution Landsat satellite data was not feasible until now due to the need for high-performance computing to store, process, and analyze this large volume of high resolution satellite data. In this study, we present an approach to quantify continental land cover and impervious surface changes over a long period of time (15 years) using high resolution Landsat satellite observations and Google Earth Engine cloud computing platform. The approach applied here to overcome the computational challenges of handling big earth observation data by using cloud computing can help scientists and practitioners who lack high-performance computational resources.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Cloud Computing*
  • Earth, Planet*
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Spacecraft