Why is Earth observation important?
Earth observation satellites have a central role to play in understanding the Earth system as a whole. They overcome the difficulty of obtaining accurate, continuous, simultaneous measurements of the Earth's atmosphere, oceans, ice sheets, land surface and interior. They are often the only way to highlight gradual change on a global scale.
Satellites highlight mankind's effects on the natural environment, for example:
- annual sea level rise
- rising sea surface temperatures
- ozone depletion
- changes in global land use
- melting sea ice and glaciers
- atmospheric pollution
Satellites can measure large scale changes in remote areas. For example, burn scars from forest fires in Siberia tell scientists how much carbon dioxide forests emit into the atmosphere, increasing our knowledge of the global carbon budget.
They tell us how glaciers and ice sheets in far-flung corners of the globe are changing as temperatures rise.
They give us accurate daily information on sea surface temperatures many kilometres from land. This can help hurricane prediction.
NERC currently supports a range of EO science and research activities. NERC's EO investments include:
- The NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), a NERC Research Centre that provides the UK with National Capability in EO science;
- Specialist EO groups within its other component Centres and their partners;
- A range of EO services and facilities, including a data reception, processing and analysis service, a remote sensing focussed aircraft, and a space geodesy facility; and
- Projects supported through the Responsive Mode and Research Programme funding streams; some of these projects are EO focussed, but many are interdisciplinary projects where EO is one of the several approaches used to address key scientific questions.
A key partner in the delivery of NERC's Earth observation activities is the UK Space Agency (UKSA); UKSA is responsible for civil space policy in the UK and leads UK engagement with the European Space Agency (ESA). NERC and UKSA will work together to ensure that maximum benefit is derived by the UK in the implementation of space-based EO activities. In particular that NERC has access to the space-based observations it needs to deliver its environmental science objectives and that the UK Space Agencies investments in space infrastructure are fully exploited