The EMIT mission will image the mineral content of dust producing regions of the Earth. As part of this effort, it will collect unprecedented coverage of visible to shortwave infrared (VSWIR) radiance and reflectance data and use them to produce estimates of the fraction of the surface covered by green vegetation, non-photosynthesizing vegetation, and ten important minerals over arid regions of the planet. These data products, hosted on the LP DAAC, will allow for investigations beyond the EMIT mission science objectives which will inform decision makers across a wide range of potential application areas for the benefit of society. NASA’s Applied Sciences Program, the EMIT project team, and collaborators are working together to further the applications potential of these groundbreaking data. We are committed to NASA’s Open Source Science Initiative and will be providing research grade data products to the public, in addition to its science deliverables, as they become available.

Potential Applications Areas

Natural Hazards

EMIT data over flooded regions in Pakistan
EMIT acquisition over flooded regions in Pakistan during 2022
Assessing the risk of hazards, both before they occur and in response to events, allows for more effective planning and implementation of disaster response efforts. EMIT data could enable detection of a variety of natural hazards and could be used to guide disaster management strategies. For example, it is possible to use reflectance data like those from EMIT to locate the distribution of particular minerals on the slopes of volcanoes which can indicate increased likelihood of debris flows, allowing communities to plan around these high risk areas. Another example is flood response, where EMIT data could provide information on flood extent, ecosystem impacts, and surface water sediment load.

Environmental pollution

From oil spills, to ocean plastics, to acid mine drainage, environmental pollution and damage can impact societies and ecosystems across the globe. Spectrometers like EMIT have been used to map oil extent from the deep water horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, plastics in the environment, and to accelerate clean up of an acid mine superfund site in Leadville, CO. As EMIT acquires data across the globe, there is great potential to use them to assist with environmental clean up in response to disasters such as oil spills and remediation efforts to clean up historic mine sites.

Coastal waters and harmful algal blooms

An EMIT data cube of coastal data in Argentina
EMIT acquisition of a coastal environment off the coast of Bahía Blanca, Argentina
Societies rely on freshwater and coastal ecosystems for many purposes including food, transportation, and recreation. Recently we have seen a rise in harmful algal blooms around the world, large coral bleaching events, and destruction of coastal habitats from development and sea level rise. The EMIT sensor can be used to monitor ocean phytoplankton, harmful algal bloom biomass and composition, coral presence and bleaching events, and the health of coastal ecosystems.

Agricultural monitoring

Crop health and agricultural production is essential to maintaining human health and societies. EMIT will collect data over many of the world's agricultural regions. Depending on the season and crop management, these data can provide information on crop types, vegetation health and disease, crop residue composition, and soil mineralogy.

Forest management & fire

An EMIT data cube showing a fire in California
EMIT acquisition over Sierra Nevada, California, with active fire in the image.
Forest lands both in the western US and across the globe are at increasingly high risk of mortality from drought, beetle outbreaks, and wildfire. Data from EMIT could be used to monitor forest health through the water content of canopies, composition and dry biomass that make up fire fuels, and low risk areas where vegetation is absent, creating a nuanced perspective of fire risk across forest landscapes. Further, EMIT data can be used after a wildfire to assess recovery and monitor ongoing risks associated with debris flows and landslides in regions with poor vegetation regrowth.

Vegetation community and biodiversity monitoring

Understanding the locations, distributions, and diversity of vegetation communities helps to promote good management and conservation efforts. EMIT data provide an opportunity to establish baseline maps of vegetation communities around the globe to help monitor ecosystem health, biodiversity loss, and conservation efforts. These maps could also be used to map the habitat of disease vectors, such as mosquitoes, to assist public health efforts to contain vector borne diseases.