The Importance Of Earth Observing Satellites
July 17, 2012

The Importance Of Earth Observing Satellites

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Talks held at the recent biannual conference on mapping global risk ensured that leaders focused on the importance of Earth-observing satellites.

The Understanding Risk Forum was organized by the World Bank's Global Facility for Disaster Risk and Recovery in Cape Town, South Africa earlier this month.

During the conference, Earth-observing satellites became the focal point of discussion at the Forum's Earth Observing session chaired by ESA, along with the South Africa National Space Agency (SANSA).

Leaders from the National Hydrological Services of Namibia, the Regional Centre for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development and the World Bank all came together for the talks.

The leaders talked about how satellite Earth observation can support scientists and operational users for a range of applications, as well as disaster prevention and preparation.

Every year, the wet plains of southeastern Cambodia are subject to flooding from the Mekong River during South Africa's monsoon season. However, satellites help provide data that can not only be used in Cambodia for these situations, but also other disaster-prone areas on the world.

This data can support risk assessment for a range of hazards, such as hydrometeorological risks or geo-hazards like landslides and terrain subsidence.

During the session, ESA said scientists unveiled results of the two-year collaboration between the Earth observation directorate of ESA and the World Bank that focuses on mainstreaming Earth observation services and applications to support the international development community in a range of global risk management activities.

"Satellite Earth observation is one of the pillars of the disaster risk management practice at the World Bank," ESA said. "For instance, in the event of natural disasters, satellite data are used to support large-scale emergency recovery programs through a post-disaster needs assessment."

The space agency also said satellite information is increasingly included in risk mitigation and climate change adaption programs in a broad scale, like coastal lowland subsidence and flood defense.

ESA said in the next few years, its Sentinel satellites will be launched as part of the joint EU-ESA initiative on Global Monitoring of the Environment and Security (GMES) program.

"They will significantly improve availability of environmental information services and allow increased use of Earth observation information on an operational basis," ESA said.

ESA has set up five urban risk assessment pilot studies in order to help raise awareness and demonstrate the capabilities of Earth observation. The studies have been set up in collaboration with the World Bank.

The studies include urban mapping and thematic mapping to support risk assessment for hazards like flooding.  The researchers will also be assessing terrain subsidence and landslides in Tunis, Alexandria, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Rio de Janeiro, Ho Chi Minh City and Guyana´s capital city, Georgetown.

"This is part of an overall ESA initiative to demonstrate the potential of Earth observation services to support the operations of multilateral development banks such as World Bank, the European Investment Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, among others," the space agency said.