Tag Archives: ESA

ESA: understanding of snow

Estimating the amount of seasonal snow is important for understanding the water cycle and Earth’s climate system, but establishing a clear and coherent picture of change has proven difficult. New research from ESA’s Climate Change Initiative has helped to produce the first reliable estimate of snow mass change and has helped to identify different continental trends.

Warming surface temperatures are known to have driven substantial reductions in the extent and duration of northern hemisphere snow cover. Equally important, but much less well understood is snow mass – the amount of water held in the snow pack – and how it has changed over time.

Millions of people rely on snow meltwaters for power, irrigation and drinking water. More accurate snow mass information would not only help to assess the availability of freshwater resources and identify flood risk, but also enable the better assessment of the role seasonal snow plays in the climate system.

In a new paper, published in Nature, researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) and the Environment and Climate Change Canada, working as part of ESA’s Climate Change Initiative, have reliably estimated the amount of annual snow mass and changes in snow cover in the northern hemisphere between 1980 and 2018. Their research shows that snow mass has remained the same in Eurasia and has decreased in North America, but the extent of snow cover has decreased in both regions.

The combined 39-year snow mass climate data record is based on passive microwave satellite observations combined with ground-based snow depth measurements. This allowed the team to narrow the annual maximum snow mass for the northern hemisphere to 3062 gigatonnes between 1980-2018, with the peak snow mass occurring in March, while previous estimates ranged from 2500-4200 gigatonnes.

The team used this method, which corrects any anomalies in the data, and compared them to estimates from the Global Snow Monitoring for Climate Research, also known as GlobSnow, with three independent estimates of snow mass.

Jouni Pulliainen, the paper’s lead author and Research Professor at FMI, says, “The method can be used to combine different observations and it provides more accurate information about the amount of snow than ever before. The previous considerable uncertainty of 33% in the amount of snow has decreased to 7.4%.”

The research team found little reduction in northern hemisphere snow mass over the four decades of satellite observations when looking at the annual maximum amount of snow at the turn of February-March.

However, the more reliable estimates enabled the team to identify different continental trends. For example, snow mass decreased by 46 gigatonnes per decade across North America. This was not reflected in Eurasia, but high regional variability was observed.

Jouni continues, “In the past, estimates of global and regional snowfall trends have only been indicative. The results show that the amount of rainfall has increased in the northern regions, especially in the northern parts of Asia.”

In northern areas, where rainfall generally turns to snow in winter, the snow mass has remained the same or even increased. In the southern parts, where in winter rainfall comes down as water rather than snow, both the extent of the snow cover and the snow mass have decreased.

Snow mass data have the potential to help scientists analyse and improve the reliability of models used to predict future change, however, previous attempts to estimate the amount of snow mass in northern latitudes are so varied that it is not possible to judge if changes have occurred with sufficient confidence.

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano returned

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano touched down in the Kazakh Steppe at 09:12 GMT (10:12 CET), 6 February 2020 after his second six-month mission on the International Space Station. Luca returned to Earth in the Russian Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft alongside US astronaut Christina Koch and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.

During his second mission, known as ‘Beyond’, Luca served as the third European and first ever Italian in command of the International Space Station. Before leaving the Station, he handed this role over to Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripocha in a traditional change of command ceremony.

While in orbit, Luca also performed four complex spacewalks to maintain the cosmic-ray-detecting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer AMS-02, remotely operated a rock-collecting rover in the Netherlands, supported more than 50 European and over 200 international experiments, gained the European record for longest cumulative spacewalking time, and publicly shared countless images as he warned of the challenges facing our planet.

Luca will now return to ESA’s Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany where he will continue to work with researchers to gather baseline data and undertake an extensive programme of rehabilitation supported by ESA experts. The findings of this research and Luca’s work in space will help shape the future of space exploration and enhance technological developments on Earth.

Floods in Italy by Sentinel-1

Torrential downpours have battered many parts of Italy this month, with extreme flooding wreaking havoc across northern Italy. The province of Alessandria is said to be one of the worst-affected areas according to Italian media, with around 200 people evacuated and 600 said to be left stranded.

This multi-temporal image uses two separate images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 missiom on 13 November and 25 November. The flooded areas can be seen depicted in red, the Po River in black, and urban areas in white.

Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar ability to ‘see’ through clouds and rain, and in darkness, makes it particularly useful for monitoring floods. It can even easily differentiate water bodies, highlighting the difference between the Po River in black, and the extent of the flooding in red.
Around 500 people were evacuated further north in the Aosta Valley, where many roads were closed in fear of potential avalanches. Part of a viaduct serving the A6 motorway near Savona, in the northern region of Liguria, was washed away by a mudslide – leaving a 30 m gap in the road.

Images acquired before and after flooding offer immediate information on the extent of inundation and support assessments of property and environmental damage.

Earlier this month, the Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service was activated
to help respond to the floods in northeast Italy, where Venice saw record-breaking water levels and the worst flooding in 50 years.

Sentinel 6 – cooperation masterpiece

Anna van Densky from Ottobrunn The European space agency (ESA) and industry officials assembled at the IAGB engineering company venue in Ottobrunn, near Munich, Germany, on November 15 to start the countdown of the satellite Sentinel-6 launch.

The consturciton of twin Sentinel6 satellites ensures the observation of world oceans, reflecting the highest level of the European science, and technology, but not only. Producing Sentinel-6 in framework of Copernicus programme is a fruit of engagement of 57 companies in 17 countries, acting in Europe and abord. However it is the cooperation between ESA and the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), that is the most significant element of success Josef Aschbacher, the Director of ESA underlined. NASA will take charge of launching both Sentinel6 satellites in the next decade.

In countdown to Sentinel-6 launch which is scheduled in one year time on November 2020, the ESA opened a floor debating the future implications of the European space programmes, contributing the EU economies, safety and security, and especially addressing the climate change challenge.

One might think that a year countdown is an exaggeration, but considering the Sentinel-6 spectrum of implications in different endeavours, 12 month long period of introduction of the capabilities and benefits of the new satellites is definitely right period of time to engage investors and beneficiaries.

The tremendous positive effect of Sentinel-6 on communities, and societies, can be released at full through communication, and explanations to the ensemble of multiple potential users of their benefits, and advantages.

Space is a innovative endeavour, responding to civilian and strategic interests, enhancing progress worthy of long-term investments, especially at present when the European space sector is increasingly challenged by the emergence of new players like China, India, Japan and South Korea. This international competition in services requires support of European autonomy in venturing space, in view of its paramount impact on economies of the EU member-states.

The Copernicus services address six major areas: land, marine, atmosphere, climate change, emergency management, and security. Offering a support a wide range of applications, including environment protection, management of urban areas, regional and local planning, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, health, transport, climate change, sustainable development, civil protection, and tourism, – the Copernicus programme creates a modern framework for European societies, directly benefitting from science and innovation.

From mid-November France Airbus started series of tests of Sentinel6, A satellite at the Space Test Centre of IABG in Ottobrunn to confirm its readiness for exploitation in space for five years. During the test period, lasting until spring 2020, the Airbus experts will examine its ability to survive the severe conditions of launch and the space environment.

ESA Aschbacher calls for investing in space

At opening of the #PhiWeek2019 the Director of Earth Observation Programmes Josef Aschbacher called for investing in European space industries, ensuring the EU leadership in space.

The European Earth observation mission is a unique project, assembling the creative family of Space innovators, EU enthusiasts and Earth Science lovers, however it goes far beyond the fascination with starts, and space, it is enhancing progress, preserving planet, bestowing wealth to businesses and societies.

The #PhiWeek provides an excellent platform for exploration of the  latest applications of transformative technologies affecting Science Innovation and FutureEO missions and services; Connecting with innovation ecosystems and emerging EO players, including for example data scientists, deep tech innovators, large ICT corporates and startups; gather and foster emerging EO Open Science communities.

#PhiWeek2019 is also a momentum of inspiration of early career scientists, entrepreneurs, citizens and dreamers by showcasing the scientific and business opportunities related to Open Science and FutureEO.

 

 

#LPS19: ESA ‘Big Bang’ in Milan

The European Space Agency’s 2019 Living Planet Symposium has opened its working sessions today in Milan (Italy) Convention Centre MiCo. This symposium focuses on Earth Observation contribution to science and society, and spreading knowledge on disruptive technologies and actors, changing the traditional Earth Observation landscape, which also reveals new challenges and opens opportunities for public and private sector interactions.

Josef ASCHBACKER, (@AschbacherJosef ‏) Director of observation programs @ESA, shares his views with Europe Diplomatic Magazine on further integration of Earth observation data into European and global politics, shaping the new types of green economies, and lifestyle respectful of nature and planet. ASCHBACKER is profoundly convinced that ESA data on climate change and the other issues should be at heart of the upcoming political cycle of the EU.

The event, which is held every three years, will take place on 13–17 May 2019 in Milan, Italy. The Symposium is organised with the support of the Italian Space Agency.

This symposium focuses on how Earth Observation contributes to science and society, and how disruptive technologies and actors are changing the traditional Earth Observation landscape, which is also creating new opportunities for public and private sector interactions.

 

ESA celebrates Asteroid Day

Asteroid Day is a global campaign to increase awareness about asteroids and the threats and opportunities they pose. Celebrated each year on 30 June, Asteroid Day marks the largest asteroid impact event experienced on Earth in recorded history, the 1908 Tunguska event. People, animals and territory of forest were destroyed in seconds by ‘Firebird Agdy’, as Evenks, the natives of Siberia baptised the phenomenon.

The explosion near Tunguska River flattened some 500,000 acres (2,000 square kilometers) of Siberian forest (pictured). Scientists calculated the Tunguska explosion could have been roughly as strong as 10 megatons to 20 megatons of TNT — 1,000 times more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

 

European Space Agency (ESA) has long supported the Asteroid Day movement and has been playing a leading role in the global hunt for risky near-Earth objects, such as asteroids, that might one day cross our path in a way that is a bit too close for comfort.

As an example, ESA’s proposed Hera mission, planned to venture out to a double asteroid system to assess the success of a partner NASA mission’s attempt to shift the smaller body, is being put forward as part of ESA’s new Space Safety and Security activities.

Building on the previously proposed Asteroid Impact Mission, Hera would reach the double asteroid system Didymos in 2026, a few years after the NASA DART spacecraft has collided with the smaller of the two asteroid bodies, dubbed Didymoon.

By this time, the dust will have settled and the changes in Didymoon’s orbit will be fully measurable without any danger to the Hera spacecraft.

Hera will also gather crucial scientific data on asteroids as a whole by carefully surveying the exterior and interior properties of both bodies in the system – exploring two asteroids for the price of one.

In addition, Hera would deploy Europe’s first deep space CubeSats to test intersatellite links and close-proximity operations in the near-weightless asteroid environment. In doing so the mission would gather valuable knowledge and experience of benefit to the nascent asteroid mining sector, which is being championed by the Luxembourg government.

 

As a prime example of asteroid research, the Hera mission is now featured on the Luxembourg Post stamps and postcards to be released on 30 June. Copies will be available for purchase from the Luxembourg Post website.

Airbus suggests UK to join Galileo after Brexit

The chief executive of the European aerospace firm Airbus Commercial Aircraft (Airbus) said the UK should not be frozen out of the European Union’s Galileo space program after exiting, he called on both parties to find a long-term solution in the interest of European security.

Tom Enders, Airbus CEO, said at stake was not just the Galileo satellite program, the EU’s 10 billion euro project to develop a competition to the U.S. Global Positioning System, but the Europe ability to protect itself.

“The UK’s continued participation in the EU Galileo program will ensure security and defense ties are strengthened for the benefit of Europe as a whole, during a period of increasing threats to our security and geopolitical instability,” he said in a statement.

Galileo is Europe’s own global navigation satellite system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. Currently providing Initial Services, Galileo is interoperable with GPS and Glonass, the US and Russian global satellite navigation systems. By offering dual frequencies as standard, Galileo is set to deliver real-time positioning accuracy down to the metre range, European Space Agency (ESA) explains.