Brussels, 17 Dec 2004
Researchers at the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) have broken new ground in environmental monitoring from space by using satellite observations of the nature, state and evolution of the Earth's vegetation to determine the impact of major climatic events.
The technique relies on use of novel algorithms to interpret remote sensing data collected from space. This enhanced monitoring capacity will make it easier to track the effects of extreme weather events, such as the severe heatwave and drought that afflicted Western Europe in spring and summer 2003.
Using their new method, the JRC scientists have analysed the remote sensing data leading up to, during and after the 2003 drought, and found that signs of the phenomenon were detectible in the vegetation analysis for some regions of Europe as early as March of that year.
The methodology was developed and tested with the assistance of international partners before being transmitted to the European Space Agency for implementation. It is hoped that the success of the method can be used to persuade the European Environment Agency to adopt new indicators of environmental stress for monitoring.
Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik said: 'As our world faces greater environmental degradation and accelerating climate change, a development like this ensures that policy decisions in Europe and throughout the world are made on the basis of sound scientific advice. And that's the best way to get the right decisions.'
A young scientist who was involved in the development of this new method, Nadine Gobron, has received the 2004 JRC award for best young scientist for what it describes as 'her outstanding scientific contribution'.
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