ESA is a world leader in Earth observation from space, using satellites and novel techniques to ‘take the pulse of the planet’.
ESA’s Earth Observation Programme is a main player in the international landscape supporting climate science and monitoring. ESA’s satellites provide the global view, enabling the science community to detect signs of change, identify significant trends and constrain models to predict the future.
From their unique vantage point, satellites provide key information for understanding the complexities of our planet and monitoring environmental issues. Addressing and tackling climate change is central to the work of ESA’s Earth Observation programme: to predict future change, support effective policy-making, enabling communities to build a more sustainable and resilient future, and tackle the consequences of a changing world.
Through its role as a major provider of systematic and global climate observations ESA interacts with a number of international organisations that are working toward strengthening the scientific understanding and projection of climate and addressing the consequences of future change.
Climate-relevant observations are provided by a large number of satellites developed and operated by ESA:
Earth Explorers – advancing Earth and climate knowledge
Our Earth Explorer satellite missions are at the vanguard of technology. Using new cutting edge technology and techniques these demonstrator missions provide answers to urgent questions. They help to strengthen our scientific knowledge of Earth system processes and their interactions. For example, CryoSat, SMOS and Aeolus are providing new insights on the behaviour of the cryosphere, soil moisture and ocean salinity and atmospheric circulation.
Copernicus Sentinels – supporting environmental decisions
ESA is developing the expanding Sentinel satellite constellation working with the European Union on the Copernicus programme. This new generation of satellites provides continuity for accurate and timely information to improve the environmental management, support understanding and mitigation of climate change effects and safeguarding everyday lives.
Accurate, long-term observations are essential to a better understanding of our changing climate system. The ESA Climate Change Initiative merges the Europe’s archived Earth observation data, in addition to data from international partners data collected over five decades, to create long-term, global climate records for the key aspects of the climate. These empirical observations provide the evidence of the Earth system’s recent evolution to advance scientific understanding and to support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the International Panel on Climate Change- the organisations responsible for climate policy and planning process.
The ESA Earth Observation Programme’s contribution to climate science also focusses on better understanding processes of the whole Earth system, including its water, energy and carbon cycles.
In addition, it provides rapid data access, allowing disaster management authorities to respond for example to floods and fires, help to build a resilient and sustainable society and prosperous economy. Through the Phi lab, ESA is also spearheading efforts to accelerate the future of Earth Observation, to enable space researchers and companies to exploit big data and adopt and exploit disruptive technologies.