The ESA Climate Office is the focal point for the Agency’s climate-related activities and is based at ECSAT, Harwell in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom.
Meeting climate data needs
The Climate Office aims to increase the availability and use of global, satellite-based Earth observation data for decision-making.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is leading international efforts to combat climate change and limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as set out in the Paris Agreement.
In response to UNFCCC requirements for systematic monitoring of the climate system, ESA launched the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) research programme in 2008. Through the CCI, we are developing a suite of global data records of key components of the climate system, known as Essential Climate Variables (ECVs).
The climate-quality datasets produced by CCI are a major contribution to the evidence base used to understand climate change, which drives international action.
Climate modellers use the ECVs to study drivers, interactions and feedbacks due to climate change, as well as reservoirs, teleconnections, tipping points, and fluxes of energy, water, carbon, and predict future change.
A total of 54 ECVs have been identified by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). Information derived from satellite data can contribute to more than half of the ECVs, and the CCI research programme addresses 21 of them.
Expert science teams drawn from ESA Member States undertake research to generate the CCI ECVs that track changes across the oceans, atmosphere and land. A growing body of ECVs records is now freely available to users via the CCI Open Data Portal.
Producing these datasets is a craft: decades-long time series can be achieved by merging data from multiple satellite missions, ESA archives and other space agencies. All the CCI data products have fully characterised uncertainties and are validated using independent, traceable, in-situ measurement.
The Climate Office oversees four additional research projects that address climate systems to which several ECVs contribute, including closing the global and regional sea-level and carbon budgets and support global climate modelling efforts.
Projects in the CCI have published over 640 peer-reviewed research papers. This body of work supports the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) headline statements in both its 5th Assessment Report and Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. In the former, 28 contributing authors were directly related to CCI with 15 papers cited 60 times. In the latter, more than 50 cited papers were directly connected to CCI.
The Climate Office has established the Climate Modelling User Group (CMUG) as a dedicated forum to link the climate modelling community – with their climate system perspective – to satellite Earth observation experts, thereby fostering collaboration across the CCI programme.
The Climate Office works closely with EUMETSAT and operational climate services, in particular the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), to ensure coordination and complementarity. The processing systems and algorithms for 13 of the 23 ECV projects developed by CCI have been transferred to C3S for operational data provision, and the ESA Climate Office has partnered with C3S for joint data standards for ECVs.
The CCI programme supports over 450 scientists working in 178 institutions across ESA Member States to carry out the R&D the projects require.
Our post-doctoral fellowship scheme supports early-career scientists in ESA Member States to research the changing Earth system, exploiting the CCI data products to do so. The Climate Office hosts research fellows and young graduate trainees and is also a partner on the Oxford Doctoral Training Programme, and the Steering Committee of the UK EO Centre for Doctoral Training.
ESA coordinating hub
Bringing together academia and industry, the ESA Climate Office is the point of contact for organisations searching for global climate information, data, and new opportunities.
Embedded in ESA’s Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes, the Climate Office is the promotional and signposting hub for climate-related activities. Working closely with specialist ESA teams we support upcoming satellite mission and sensor preparation; and through our national, European, and global networks, promote opportunities arising from ESA projects relating to climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. The team also coordinates on new methodologies for data quality and assurance, and Artificial Intelligence for the climate.
The ESA Climate Office represents the Agency at international-level climate meetings as an observer for the IPCC, as a member of the Joint CEOS/CGMS Working Group on Climate, on the GEO Working Group on Climate, and the WCRP Data Advisory Council. We work closely with GCOS in the implementation plan for ECVs. The team has strong strategic links with space Agencies and a partnership agreement with the global research network Future Earth. This supports the ESA Climate Office and fosters the expanding use of CCI data across Future Earth’s research projects.
Communicating on climate
ESA Climate Office has an important role in raising public understanding of the climate crisis and what Earth observation data reveals about it. We use ESA’s websites and social media platforms and participate in public events to promote CCI research findings. Through our knowledge exchange project, we are developing a new online application to visualise the CCI datasets, an online toolbox for data analysis, and packs of education resources to help students and the wider public access our datasets and learn more about climate change.
Susanne Mecklenburg, Head of the ESA Climate Office
Susanne is responsible for promoting and increasing the use of satellite-based Earth Observation data in climate science. Her current focus is the delivery of ESA's Climate Change Initiative programme and developing future programme activities with ESA Climate Office as the focal point for climate.
Susanne is the ESA representative to the Joint CEOS/CGMS Working Group on Climate (WGClimate) - the body responsible for responding to the UNFCCC and GCOS on the monitoring of climate from space. She is also a member of the WCRP Data Advisory Council.
Prior to joining ESA, she worked at the UK's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, ran the Earth Observation Programme for the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council, and acted as the UK Space Agency’s delegate to ESA on technical and scientific issues.
Anna Maria Trofaier, Earth Observation Applications Engineer (Cryosphere)
Anna Maria oversees the sea ice, snow andglaciers projects within the ESA Climate Change Initiative to ensure delivery of technical requirements. She is also currently working on developing a Massive Open Online Course on the cryosphere.
She has a background in physics and remote sensing, with a focus on polar regions and initially joined the ESA Climate Office as a research fellow.
Paolo Cipollini, Earth Observation Applications Engineer (Oceans)
Paolo joined the ESA Climate Office in 2018 after 22 years at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK. There he used his background in electronics and telecommunication engineering to focus on satellite remote sensing of the ocean, studying large-scale ocean processes and coastal zones - a new discipline known as coastal altimetry.
Simon Pinnock, Earth Observation Applications Engineer (Atmosphere)
He has a PhD in astrophysics, and subsequently worked on greenhouse gas radiative forcing at the University of Reading, UK. Previously he worked at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, on satellite monitoring of forest fires. He joined ESA in 2003, where he concentrated on developing global-scale datasets for land, oceans, atmosphere and the cryosphere.
Clément Albergel, Climate Applications Scientist (Terrestrial)
His main areas of expertise are in land surface modelling, remote sensing of soil moisture and vegetation as well as data assimilation.
He has a PhD on satellite derived observations assimilation in land surface models. Prior to joining ESA, he has held positions at ECMWF, CNRM/Météo-France as a scientist from the French National Research Centre (CNRS) to develop land surface activities.
Michael Eisinger, Performance and science Products Coordinator
Michael coordinates the teams writing software for the EarthCARE mission (Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer). He helps the industrial and academic partners to work together, and supports the engineers working on EarthCARE’s sensors. He first joined ESA to work on software for GOME-2 (Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment). He supports the ESA climate office when needed. He has a background in oceanic and atmospheric physics, and instruments for passive remote sensing.
Claire MacIntosh, Climate Applications Scientist
Claire is a Climate Applications Scientist supporting atmospheric projects of the ESA Climate Change Initiative.
Having originally trained in chemistry, Claire has a PhD in satellite remote sensing of cloud properties. She has most recently held a dual research and policy remit at the UK’s National Centre for Earth Observation, developing uncertainty models in climate data records; and as a technical specialist with Space4Climate, developing frameworks for climate service
Iestyn Woolway, Research fellow
Iesytn's Fellowship aims to investigate the global responses of lakes to climate change. This includes aspects such as climate-induced variations in lake surface temperature, the occurrence of thermal extremes, changing stratification patterns, lake ice dynamics, and water level/extent. Most notably, using a combination of modelled (e.g., from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project) and satellite data (e.g., from ESA CCI Lakes) my research aims to answer key questions that relate to climate-related changes in lakes worldwide, and to understand the implications of these changes to the ecosystem services that lakes provide. Current Publications resulting from this fellowship include:
Woolway, R.I., Jennings, E., Shatwell, T., et al. (2021), Lake heatwaves under climate change. Nature 589, 402-407
Woolway, R.I., Maberly, S.C. (2020), Climate velocity in inland standing waters, Nature Climate Change 10, 1124-1129
Woolway, R.I., Kraemer, B.M., Lenters, J.D. et al. (2020), Global lake responses to climate change. Nature Reviews: Earth and Environment 1, 388-403
Ed Pechorro, Data Engineer
Ed has a variety of roles within the ESA Climate Office and no two days are ever the same. These include liaising with climate scientists to understand their resource needs, looking after climate data – including the Open Data Portal and CCI Toolbox – and working closely with Paul and Sophie on sharing climate information with various communities.
Ed joined the ESA Climate Office in 2014, after seven years as a technical lead on climate change and Earth observation projects at Logica, and six years in the video game industry. He has a computer science background.
Sophie Hebden, Research Coordinator for Earth Observations
Sophie is seconded to the ESA Climate Office from Future Earth, a global network for sustainability research. Her role includes liaising with the research networks of Future Earth to support interdisciplinary research. She works closely with Ed and Paul to share climate information with different communities and understand their needs.
Sophie has a background in space physics and science communication. Prior to joining the ESA Climate Office she worked at the UK National Centre for Earth Observation at the University of Leicester, where she coordinated UK participation in the intergovernmental initiatives Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS).
Paul Fisher, Communications Manager
Paul is responsible for maximising awareness of the role satellite data play in advancing our understanding of Earth's climate system and predicting future change among a diverse range of audiences from policy-makers teachers and the public.
He has close to 20 years of public relations and marketing experience spanning environmental consultancy and international development settings. Previously, he worked for the UK’s Centre for Hydrology & Ecology.
Victoria Ayala, Team Assistant
Before joining the ESA Climate Office in 2018, Victoria had six years of PA experience and 11 years in office administration, but had a strong desire to work in the space industry.
Victoria is a key asset to the team, organising team meetings, travel, catering requests, social events and missions. She provides support to Susanne and the team’s participation at ESA events including the annual CCI Colocation meeting and our Climate Science Advisory Body.