Space gears up for climate change study

At a two-day meeting in New Orleans, USA, Jerome Lafeuille, Chief of the Space-based Observing System Division of the WMO’s Space Programme, said the organisation had managed to get the support of a number of space agencies, which would share information.

The satellites will not only provide a continuous flow of climate and weather data, but also environmental information to aid long-term study of climate change, as well as early warning information on droughts and flooding to help developing countries.

The information is critical, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that by 2020 up to 250 million people in Africa could be exposed to increased water stress as a result of climate change, and food production could be halved. Fresh water availability in Asia was also expected to fall.

Rising sea levels would exacerbate inundation, erosion and threaten infrastructure and settlements. Uncertain climate is also set to make weather events like cyclones, flooding and rainfall more intense and their impact on food security and livelihoods more severe.

“Food security management relies on the combined use of environmental and meteorological satellites,” Lafeuille told IRIN. “Meteorological satellites provide real-time information, while environmental or land-surface imaging satellites provide high resolution information on land-cover.”

Mannava Sivakumar, Chief of WMO’s Agricultural Meteorology Division, said remote sensing provided large-scale data on growing conditions such as soil moisture and land surface temperature on a large scale, which helped plan crop planting.

The WMO meeting in New Orleans, which ended on 16 January, marked the new contribution of Brazil, which operates a satellite programme with China (CBERS) to monitor environment. Brazil announced it would complement information on Africa provided by the European Organisation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) for several years.

The information from CBERS will help develop the African Monitoring of Environment for Sustainable Development regional project, launched in 2007 to help African countries improve management of their natural resources.

At least 16 geostationary and low-earth orbit satellites currently provide operational data on the planet’s climate and weather as part of the WMO’s Global Observing System.

Among the satellites to be launched are two research stations, the Japanese Greenhouse Gas Observation Satellite (GOSAT) and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), which will monitor carbon dioxide concentration. A new European Space Agency satellite will provide data on soil moisture and ocean salinity.

The increasingly uncertain climatic patterns have been blamed on the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which trap heat in the atmosphere.

Source: eoPortal and IRIN

Author: EARSC

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