US, Mexico sign deal on sharing satellite data directly

AP News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2015 4:33 PM
US, Mexico sign deal on sharing satellite data directly

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The United States and Mexico signed a deal Friday for Mexico to capture and process land-surface imagery and data directly from a U.S.-operated satellite.

The agreement means Mexico will be able to get the raw information from the Landsat 8 satellite immediately instead of waiting for filtered data to be released by U.S. authorities.

Mexico joins about a half dozen other countries that are already downloading such data directly from U.S. satellites, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.

Officials said that will yield benefits in areas including agriculture, geology, forestry, mapping and climate change research. It will also help Mexico improve monitoring of hurricanes such as last month's Patricia, a monster Category 5 storm that fortunately avoided making a direct blow on major population centers.

The agreement "acknowledges Mexico's capability and hunger, really, for this real-time data to address the challenges and the opportunities that they have on the ground," Jewell told The Associated Press. "If you look at Hurricane Patricia ... that's the kind of information that Mexico could have been using in real time to help it prepare."

"And it lessens its dependence on the United States for interpretation of that data and enables it to directly integrate it with the data that it has, which can provide it more useful information than perhaps what they could do without that direct download," she added.

Jewell and Eduardo Sojo, president of Mexico's National Institute of Statistics and Geography, signed the agreement in the Mexican capital on the sidelines of the 2015 Ministerial Summit of the Group on Earth Observations.

Sojo said Mexico will receive downloads from Landsat 8 at a station operated by the country's space agency in the Caribbean coastal city of Chetumal, on the southeastern border with Belize.

"We also, and this is extraordinarily important, will receive the historical information," Sojo said. "So we will be able to construct models that let us precisely anticipate disasters and model the impact that climate change is having on issues such as flooding, on issues such as agriculture, in the different areas where we use satellite images."

He added that Mexico plans to share the data to federal, state and local government entities as well as researchers and universities.

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Peter Orsi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Peter_Orsi . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/peter-orsi .