Envisat: Europe's Sharp New Eye in Space Supports Research and Environmental Projects

March 4, 2002

Brussels, 01 March 2002

Concentrating a broad array of instruments on a single platform and integrating continuous streams of data in real time, ENVISAT opens exciting opportunities for new products, services and applications in many crucial areas:

Monitoring the ozone layer: three atmospheric sensors will allow to create for the first time a global 3D map of ozone levels in the atmosphere, allowing for better ozone and UV forecasts within hours of being gathered. Armed with this detailed view, ENVISAT will contribute to a better understanding of how the ozone layer will repair itself.

Assessing forests, land use: new, real time maps of land use, using simultaneous radar and optical observation will offer global picture of land use of unprecedented accuracy and detail - a vital tool for the development of agriculture and the monitoring of forests.

Responding to emergencies and catastrophic events: working day and night, penetrating clouds and bad weather, ENVISAT can focus on disaster zones within hours of a catastrophe, and offer vital tools for disaster management teams the world over, forecasting floods and droughts, monitoring volcanic activity and spotting landslides. It can track efforts by relief teams and help aid delivery in remote terrain.

Optimising sea traffic: ENVISAT's radar systems can give information on the height of waves, with a precision of ±25 cm, and determine wave direction. They also tracks drifting ice and monitor the pack ice and its limits. Taken together with information on major currents, this will make it possible to optimise routing of maritime traffic for speed and fuel economy, a substantial boon to international shipping.


Community support to space observation for environmental monitoring and research started in 1994. With a total of about 150 past and ongoing space projects, the EU has invested more than €150 Million to date. The aim is to foster European capability in operational services and applications for monitoring the Earth from space. Exploiting this opportunity, European consortia several years ago began preparing the ground for a successful exploitation of the ENVISAT mission.

Space agencies, software companies, SMEs and leading research institutions from all over Europe have joined forces and pooled expertise to simulate data from the various ENVISAT sensors even before the satellite launch. They have also developed models that will process ENVISAT data and deliver new scientific knowledge about the health of our Planet.

Validating ENVISAT data and ENVISAT -derived products has been a key target for these research teams, involving a broad spectrum of EU and global partners. The aim is to deliver precise, quantified information useful to scientists, industry and policy makers. Sixteen ongoing or recently selected Community research projects, amounting to more than € 40 million investment, are targeting ENVISAT, its validation and its exploitation. Funded by the European Commission, these projects are delivering new results and applications in the following fields:


Greenhouse gases and stratospheric ozone depletion. PROJECT AMIL2DA: Extension of the list of MIPAS/Envisat data products routinely provided by ESA to other species relevant to global change and ozone depletion. Nine partners: 3DE, 1ES, 1FR, 1FI, 1IT, 2UK.

PROJECT VINTERSOL: following three previous European stratospheric ozone experiments, a new major European field campaign for studying ozone will be organised from late 2002 until mid 2004. Several research programmes will contribute. This campaign will extend the scope and duration of the validation campaign for Envisat and therefore contribute to enhance the quality of Envisat measurements. Partnerships: experiment with various projects

Clouds. PROJECT CLIWA-NET: implementation of a Cloud Observation Network, notably to support the operational validation of clouds products for current and future satellites including Envisat Twelve partners: 1CH, 4DE, 1FR, 1FI, 1NL, 2SE, 1UK.

PROJECT CLOUDMAP-2: assimilation of cloud and water vapour parameters derived from space sensors (including AATSR and MERIS onboard Envisat) into Numerical Weather Forecasting models to improve cloud and water vapour forecasts over Europe, the North Atlantic and US ARM sites. Eight partners: 2CH, 2DE, 1NL, 1SE, 2UK.

Carbon cycle PROJECT COCO: retrieval of atmospheric CO2 column concentrations from satellite measurements, including data from SCHIAMACHY onboard Envisat Five partners: 1DE, 3FR, 1UK.

Assessing forests, land use PROJECT SIBERIA-II: development of multitemporal indicators describing land use, land cover changes over the Siberian region using both field and space data including MERIS and ASAR data from Envisat. These indicators will be used in global biosphere models to demonstrate full carbon accounting over a significant part of the Earth's boreal biome.Fourteen partners: 2AT, 1CH, 3D, 1FR, 4RU, 3UK.

Oceans and coastal zones PROJECT REVAMP: regional validation of Chlorophyll products in North Sea Coastal waters from MERIS data (Envisat); production of a chlorophyll atlas for the year 2002.Eight partners 1BE, 2DE, 1DK, 1NL, 2NO, 1UK.

PROJECT MARSAIS: exploitation of SAR imagery (including Envisat's radar systems) and other satellite data for coastal zone monitoring, notably coastal pollution, ships detection, coastal wind fields mapping. Eight partners: 1DE, 2FR, 1GR, 1IT, 1IE, 1NO, 1UK.

PROJECT NAOC: improvement and validation of ocean colour products, notably chlorophyll-a concentration, from sensors including MERIS onboard Envisat in view of improved monitoring of ocean productivity Seven partners: 2DE, 1ES, 3F, 1UK.

Sea traffic PROJECT DECLIMS: use of optical and SAR imagery (including Envisat's radar systems) for maritime vessel detection, classification and identification. Seventeen partners: 2CA, 1CN, 1DE, 3FR, 1GR, 3IT, 1JP, 1NL, 1NO, 1NZ, 1UK, 1US

Glaciers PROJECT OMEGA: development of an operational monitoring system for European glacial areas based on satellite Earth observation data (including Envisat data) as well as airborne data; assessment of glaciers mass balance as an input to global change studies. Nine partners: 2AT, 4FI, 2NO.

Catastrophic events, such as flooding or landslides PROJECT ELDAS: design and implementation of a European to global scale system to estimate soils moisture content from satellite data (including Envisat's radar systems) in view of flood and drought forecasting. Eleven partners: 1AT, 2DE, 1ES, 1FR, 2NL, 1SE, 2UK.

PROJECT ENVISNOW: development of an operational method for retrieving snow/ice parameters at regional to global scales from various satellite sensors, including optical and radar sensors onboard Envisat. Use in global climate studies and hydrology, in particular run-off and flood prediction. Ten partners: 2AT, 2FI, 2IT, 4 NO.

PROJECT MUSCL: use of SAR interferometry (including Envisat's radar systems) and optical space sensors to monitor urban subsidence, cavities and landslides in Mediterranean and Alpine countries. Five partners: 1AT, 1CH, 3IT.


Philippe Busquin, Commissioner for Research, also responsible for space policy, said: "I congratulate ESA, CNES, Arianespace, and all European scientists involved, on the successful launch of ENVISAT. Europe's Environment Satellite is a good illustration of Europe's first-class space science and technologies. A better and more intensive use of space technologies in monitoring our environment could help us meet the challenges linked to globalisation. More accurate and reliable information will help Europe better address problems such as global change, natural catastrophes or mass movements of refugees. ENVISAT is set to become a cornerstone in our policy of building an autonomous European capacity for global monitoring which the European Commission and the European Space Agency are jointly piloting."

When ENVISAT spreads its solar wings, European researchers, private companies and public authorities will have access to the world's most sophisticated tools to monitor climate change, track environmental pollution, react to natural disasters. Streams of data from its 10 scientific instruments will build the most detailed profile ever of the planet's atmosphere, land, rivers and seas. Monitoring, 24 hours a day from its polar orbit, movements of the earth surface, glaciers, ice caps, and oceanic currents, ENVISAT will significantly improve our global observing capacity for global change research. It will also help optimise maritime traffic, monitor land use and respond to natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods and forest fires. Most importantly, ENVISAT will foster a whole new generation of innovative, user-driven space applications and services for the environment and security.

Practical applications of space technologies and the development of space-based services are key priorities of the Community's Framework Programme for Research. This includes exploitation of space data and their integration into long term, systematic observing systems for environment and sustainable development. Such space applications are an essential element of the Global Monitoring Environment and Security (GMES) initiative proposed by the European Commission and endorsed by the EU Council in October 2001.

Source: Research DG http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/research/ index_en.html

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