Mexico: As world negotiators gather at the climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, to tackle climate change, scientists are demonstrating how long-term satellite data provide unique information to help policymakers understand and manage climate change.
During the summit, European Space Agency (ESA) held an event focusing on its Climate Change Initiative (CCI), which is making full use of Europe’s Earth observation space assets to exploit robust long-term global records of essential climate variables.
The Climate Change Initiative makes use of archive data going back three decades from ESA and Member-State satellites. These datasets, combined with data from new missions, are used to produce new information on a wide range of climate variables, such as greenhouse-gas concentrations, sea-ice extent and thickness, and sea-surface temperature and salinity.
“Monitoring sea-level rise from space using altimeter satellites is very important; we know that sea level is currently rising in response to global warming, and that the rate is accelerating. Sea level will continue to rise in the future. But how much? We don’t know,” said Dr Anny Cazenave, Senior Scientist at Laboratoire d’Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales.
Prof. Emilio Chuvieco of Spain’s Universidad de Alcalá explained that biomass burning, which includes forest fires and agricultural burnings, is one of the most critical factors for understanding current vegetation patterns.
Roger Saunders, Senior Earth Observation Scientist at the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, said, “Earth observation satellite data have been available for over 30 years but their use for improving climate model predictions has been very limited up to now in contrast to their widespread use for short range weather forecasts.”
Data on these essential climate variables are required by the Global Climate Observing System to support the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.