The Earth Observation Programme of ESA
Earth Observation (EO) from satellites is increasingly important for the understanding of the Earth’s system
and its processes, especially within the context of climate change.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is an international organization consisting of 18 Member States
developing and executing space programmes in cooperation with European industry. In the area of EO,
after the first successful launch of Meteosat in 1977, ESA designed, developed and launched a series of
meteorological satellites, including Meteosat Second Generation and METOP (all operated by EUMETSAT).
In 1991, ESA launched its first EO satellite with a synthetic aperture radar payload, ERS-1, followed by
ERS-2 (1996) and Envisat (2002), the former being the largest EO satellite ever launched and with a variety
of different sensors for the observation of land, ocean, cryosphere and atmosphere. Data issued by ERS-2
and ENVISAT payload are presently transferred to ground stations, collected and distributed worldwide
to around 1200 scientific teams, as well as to an increasingly larger number of operational and commercial
On top of these, ESA is preparing some scientific Earth Observation missions called Earth Explorers,
dedicated to the study of scientific challenges identified by the science community. GOCE (measuring the
Earth's gravity field), SMOS (determining soil moisture and ocean salinity), CryoSat (observing continental
ice sheets and marine ice cover) are the next satellites of this series.
Other important issues are the observation and fast response in case of natural disasters and all
environmental hazards. In this context, GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), a joint
initiative of the European Space Agency ESA and the European Union, aims to monitor the state of the
environment on land, at sea and in the atmosphere and to deliver policy-relevant EO information that can
be used to improve the security of the citizens. The success of this initiative will be achieved largely
through a well-engineered Space Component for the provision of Earth-observation data to turn into
services for monitoring the environment and supporting civil security. This Space Component comprises
five types of new missions called Sentinels, so-called Contributing Missions from Member States and
other organisations, with their associated Ground Segment infrastructure, developed by ESA specifically
to meet the needs of GMES. The Sentinel missions include radar and super-spectral imaging for land,
ocean and atmospheric monitoring. The first three Sentinels are currently under industrial development,
with Sentinel-1 planned to launch in 2011.
Associated to this challenging programme of Earth Observation, ESA is carrying out a programme of
EO Education, in cooperation with other national space agencies and with international bodies, like UNESCO
or the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and its Working Group for Education. In this
frame, dedicated tools for schools, such as Eduspace, have been developed with the objective to create
awareness about the potential of Earth Observation from space among young generations and to bring
“space” closer to youngsters. A variety of different tools have been developed and a series of training
courses at different levels (university, post-doc, scientific or professional-oriented) are provided by ESA
and other institutes cooperating with ESA.
Jorge Del Rio Vera
In the context of the International Polar Year (IPY), the European Space Agency (ESA) has been an
active member of the Global Inter-Agency IPY Polar SnapShot Year (GIIPSY) project. This project
provided the framework to the different space agencies to collaborate in order to generate a comprehensive
dataset for IPY.
The main contribution of ESA is an IPY specific acquistion plan for Envisat, providing synoptic and
sinergetic measurements of the Polar areas. In addition to this, an special orbit control mechanism has been
put in place to further enhance the data collected in the area of interferometry. Additional acquisition
campaigns/activities are presented together with information of how to obtain the data.
The outcome of the 3rd SAR Coordination meeting for IPY GIIPSY meeting (to be held in June) will also
Arctic Oceanography lectures:
- Definition of Arctic from an ocean perspective
- Geography and bathymetry: the main ocean basins and shelf seas; influence of sea-bed topography on
- Arctic water masses: Polar surface water, Atlantic water, and Arctic deep water
- Overview of Arctic ocean currents; exchange with the Pacific and the Atlantic
- Influence of the Arctic on global climate: Arctic deep water formation, the Atlantic conveyor, and the
global thermohaline circulation
- Physical factors influencing marine biological productivity: effects of bathymetry, the polar frontal zone,
and sea ice with examples from the Labrador and Barents seas
- Effects of climate change on Arctic oceanography; Arctic ocean climate feedbacks
- Monitoring Arctic oceanographyusing satellite and in situ data
I will present briefly the history of IPY (International Polar Year) here on Svalbard, and the Norwegian and international IPY projects, focusing on the main topic addressed by the course. Finally, I briefly present the Permafrost Observatory Project: A Contribution to the Thermal State of Permafrost in Norway and SValbard (TSP Norway).
Cryosphere 1 & 2 - Cryosat-2
Following the unfortunate loss of the Cryosat satellite during launch in 2005, it was quckly agreed that the measurements it would provide were vital and Cryosat-2 is now scheduled for launch in November 2009. The mission is focused on measuring precise changes in the elevation and thickness of the polar icesheets and floating sea ice, providing data necessary to understand changes in the ice masses and implications for ocean circulation and sea level. This session will describe how Cryosat-2 has been designed to improve on the heritage of previous satellite altimeter missions to deliver measurements with improved coverage and resolution. We will also cover the contribution it will make, together with other satellite instruments, to current investigations in ice sheet mass balance and the recent changes to Arctic sea ice cover.
Observations of a changing Earth - contribution from satellite missions
Since Earth Observation from space first became possible more than forty years ago, it has become central to monitoring and understanding how the dynamics of the Earth System work. The greatest progress has been in meterology, where space-based observations have become indispensable, but it is now also progressively penetrating many of the fields making up Earth sciences.
Exploiting Earth Observation from space presents major multidiscplinary challenges to the researchers working in the Earth sciences, to the technologists who build the state-of-the-art sensors, and to the scientists interpreting measurements made of processes occurring on or within the Earth's surface and in its atmosphere. The scientific community has shown considerable imagination in rising to these challenges, and in exploiting the latest technological developments to measure from space the complex processes and interactions that occur in the Earth System.
In parallel, there has been dramatic progress in developing computer models that represent the many processes that make up the Earth System, and the interactions and feedbacks between them. Success in developing this holistic view is inextricably linked to the data provided by Earth Observation systems. Satellites provide fundamental, consistent, regular and global measurements needed to test and improve, parametrize and drive Earth System models. Moreover, it is a fact that many operational, managerial and regulatory activities (e.g. weather forecasting, deforestation, etc.). essential to the safe exploitation of global resources, conservation of sutainable ecosystems, and the compliance with numerous international treaties and conventions, depend absolutely on continuity of satellite missions to maximize socio-economic and environmental benefits.
This presentation will highlight some of the important multidisciplinary Earth science achievements and operational applications using satellite missions. It will also address some of the key scientific challenges and need for operational monitoring services in the years to come.
Title: Global change detected by ocean color
Subtitle: Increased phytoplankton blooms detected by ocean color
A practical tutorial using actual satellite data and software for change detection
Satellite data provide large scale synoptic coverage and are therefore essential in detecting global environmental change. Satellite ocean color data provide global estimates of phytoplankton biomass that is a crucial component in global fluxes of carbon and other elements. In this tutorial we use customized software (http://wimsoft.com/Tutorial_Detection_of_Change.pdf) to detect global change in the magnitude of phytoplankton blooms. We pay special attention to the apparent changes in the Arctic Ocean.
Following Kahru and Mitchell (2008) (http://spg.ucsd.edu/People/Mati/2008_Kahru_Blooms_EOS.pdf, global images of change at http://spg.ucsd.edu/blooms.png and http://spg.ucsd.edu/blooms.kmz) we search for trends in annual maxima of Chl-a concentration (or Net Primary Production) based on monthly composites; we call this bloom magnitude. Bloom magnitude is typically determined by the annual bloom (e.g. the spring bloom) or Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) events. We run the program of change detection on 142 monthly global datasets covering 12 years (1997-2008) and build global images showing areas of statistically significant change (increase or decrease).
Ocean color from 1997 to 2008 show increased phytoplankton blooms in certain areas of the World, e.g., eastern boundary upwelling systems and in a number of areas. While the increase in bloom magnitude is statistically significant in these areas, the factors causing most of these changes are still not clear. For example, increased blooms along eastern boundary currents could be explained by increased upwelling but no evidence of increased upwelling is available. The increased blooms off Oregon are likely linked to the increase in the "dead zones" of oxygen-depleted water.
Kahru M, B.G. Mitchell, 2008, Ocean color reveals increased blooms in various parts of the World, EOS Trans. Agu, Vol. 89, N. 18, p. 170.
Kahru, M., R. Kudela, M. Manzano-Sarabia, and B.G.Mitchell, 2009, Trends in primary production in the California current detected with satellite data, J. Geophys. Res., 114, doi: 10.1029/2008JC004979.
Nils Gunnar Kvamstø
During the four climate lectures the aim is to give an overview of the Arctic energy budget, the Arctic climatology and the large-scale processes that determine the budget. Furthermore, the instrumental Arctic temperature record will be reviewed and compared with corresponding output from Global Climate Models. Such comparisons reveal systematic model errors and key processes concerning these will be discussed . It will also be shown that the characteristics of Arctic climate variability are different from those at lower latitudes and that this has implications for our interpretation of future climate projections. Finally, we will investigate the concept of "Arctic amplification" and the feedback processes that and timescales that are involved in this problem.
First lecture: North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Arctic Oscillation (AO): meteorology, implication for the Arctic; interaction between troposphere and stratosphere; predictability. Atmosphere transport into and around Arctic, with focus on pollutants. POLARCAT.
Second lecture: Observing the Arctic stratosphere: in situ, remote sensing (satellites). Making sense of observations (e.g. along-orbit view, equivalent latitude) ; influence of dynamics and chemistry (e.g. ozone, tracers) . Picture for winter and summer.
Third lecture: Data assimilation: making sense of observations. Focus on constituents (ozone, water vapour). Evaluation of observations/models. The Global Observing System (GOS): evaluation using Observing System Experiments (OSEs), planning using Observing System Simulation Experiments (OSSEs).
Dag Anders Moldestad
Short information on the Norwegian Space Centre
Advantages with Earth Observation from satellites in Norway & Svalbard
Examples of Norwegian Earth Observation projects relevant for the Arctic & climate
Some challenges for future scientists on EO, Arctic & climate
Thor Erik Nordeng
General description of NWP data asimilation and forecasting system. NWP performance. NWP in research. Typical high latitude weather systems. Challenge for NWP at high latitudes. Data requirements. Motivation for assimilation of satellite data and novel data types. Targeting and other observational strategies. Experiences from the International Polar Year.
The lecture will review physical properties of sea ice that are of importance for various satellite sensing instruments. Sea ice is observed by passive microwave radiometers, active radar systems such as SAR, scatterometer and radar altimeter. The most important physical properties affecting the microwaves are salinity, water content, surface roughness and snow cover properties. Altimeters are also sensitive to height variability of the ice cover. Also optical scanners, infarred radiometers and laser altimeters provide useful information about the albedo and temperature of the surface of sea ice cover. The isostatic equilibrium assumption for ice floating on the sea surface is discussed, as background for ice thickness retrieval from freeboard measurements. Examples of remote sensing signals of sea ice from all the major satellite data will be given, inclding freeboard retrieval from laser and radar altimeters.