Aug 21, 2013

ESA’s Living Planet Symposium in Edinburgh

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Organised and hosted by ESA with the support of the UK Space Agency, the event brings together more than 1500 scientists and users from across the globe to present their latest findings on Earth’s environment and climate.

The versatility of Europe’s Earth Explorer missions will be the main focus. The three missions in orbit are CryoSat, GOCE and SMOS. Over the past few years they have been providing new information on Earth’s cryosphere; gravity and soil moisture; and ocean salinity, respectively, but there have also been several achievements that surpassed the original scope of these missions.

While CryoSat continues to measure the thickness and extent of sea ice and continental ice sheets, it has also proven capable of profiling land surfaces and inland water targets, monitoring sea-level changes and even contributing to the mapping of ocean floor topography.

Earth’s gravity mission, GOCE, has gathered enough data to map Earth’s gravity with unrivalled precision. Scientists further exploited these data to map the boundary between Earth’s crust and mantle – called the Moho. GOCE also detected sound waves from the massive earthquake that hit Japan on 11 March 2011.

The Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite, SMOS, has been helping us to understand the water cycle. But the mission is also being used to monitor Arctic sea-ice extent and thickness, and can even determine wind speeds inside hurricanes.

The next Earth Explorer, Swarm, is planned for launch later this year. The three-satellite constellation aims to unravel one of the most mysterious aspects of our planet: the magnetic field.

The symposium will also see special sessions dedicated to ESA’s programmes and initiatives, including ESA’s key contribution to the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme, recently renamed ‘Copernicus’. Financing for this ambitious programme was secured earlier this summer when European Parliament approved the multiannual financial framework budget for 2014–20.

Copernicus relies on the provision of robust data, predominantly from Earth observation satellites. ESA is developing the series of Sentinel satellites for this purpose, and the first satellites are expected to be launched within the next year.

The latest results from ESA’s missions and overview of the Earth Observation and Copernicus programme will be presented during the opening plenary session on Monday, 9 September, 10:30–12:00, followed by a 30-minute press briefing.

The full technical programme will follow after the opening plenary session, and is open to media. Full programme at: