Better flow of satellite data for better management of environmental and security crises

Natural and manmade catastrophes in Europe, America, Asia and Africa, coupled with increased security needs, have further reinforced the need for earth observation systems. The GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) ensures that crisis situations like floods, forest fires or earthquakes can be better anticipated and managed through monitoring the state of our environment. To supply space data in a seamless, integrated, timely and secure way to the GMES users the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a 48 million € grant for a coordinated provision of space-based observation data for GMES for its pre-operational phase 2008-2010. This new coherent and cost-efficient approach prefigures an operational service that will offer a comprehensive and sustained supply of space-based earth observation data.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy said: “Coordinated, comprehensive and sustained global monitoring of the earth system is one of the key factors to respond to the new economic, social, security and environmental challenges. GMES is the European solution for the needs of citizens in Europe to access reliable information on the status of their environment”.

GMES is a European initiative for the implementation of information services dealing with environment and security. Its observations support decision-making by both institutional and private actors. Decisions could concern either new regulations to preserve our environment or urgent measures in case of natural or man–made catastrophes, such as floods, forest fires, water pollution. Some concrete examples include:

  • Monitoring the state of the ocean, the land and the atmosphere on a permanent basis, in support to the actions on Climate Change
  • 24/7 service for European civil protections delivering routine and on-demand cartographic maps, maps of population and rural and urban habitat as well as post crisis assessment maps;
  • Support for sustainable management and development of Africa through monitoring systems which can identify, forecast and support land cover and land use change, irrigation properties and cattle breeding;
  • More specific services such as:
  • Detection of oil spills and their discharge in the seas;
  • Services for European farmers which can help optimise the fertilizers or pesticides input and contribute to a better overall land management;
  • Ozone monitoring and UV exposure.

GMES will be based on observation data received from Earth observation satellites and ground based information. This information will be supplied by two types of services: the Core Services providing data and information common to a broad range of policy-relevant application areas and the Downstream Services tailored to specific applications at global or local levels.

GMES is being built up gradually and will start with the implementation of three pre-operational services in the domain of Emergency Response, Land Monitoring and Marine (the Fast Track Services). The validation of these services will be carried out in the frame of the 7th Framework Programme for research. Other pilot actions will also be initiated in the domain of security and atmosphere monitoring.

Through the grant signed today, the GMES services will benefit free of charge from the required space data. The data will be obtained in priority from existing European Earth observation satellites. In the future, the space based infrastructure will include satellites dedicated to GMES. The data access grant covers the development and the pre-operation of coordinated functions linking earth observation data providers with service providers, as well as the negotiation of data access agreements with the Contributing Missions. An example is the ESA coordination in support to emergency services, with the implementation of procedures such as 24/7 on-call desk for satellite tasking and the building up of reference archives on risk areas, in order to be able to deliver very fast information to end users, in case of emergency.

The success of this grant is a key to the success of the pre-operational services and as such will demonstrate the European capacity to deliver to the end user the reliable, timely and sustainable information. It is a major step forward in establishing an operational GMES infrastructure which, once working, will have important geostrategic implications for Europe.

More information on GMES

More information on the European Space Policy

Author: EARSC

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