Friday, January 18, 2008

Space gears up for climate change study

Humanity is going to hurl many satellites up there to improve earth monitoring. From IRIN: A record 17 satellites are to be launched in 2008 in the largest-ever concerted global effort to monitor the impact of climate change over the next few decades, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which is leading the initiative.

At a two-day meeting in New Orleans, USA, Jerome Lafeuille, Chief of the Space-based Observing System Division of the WMO’s Space Programme, said the organisation had managed to get the support of a number of space agencies, which would share information. The satellites will not only provide a continuous flow of climate and weather data, but also environmental information to aid long-term study of climate change, as well as early warning information on droughts and flooding to help developing countries.

The information is critical, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that by 2020 up to 250 million people in Africa could be exposed to increased water stress as a result of climate change, and food production could be halved. Fresh water availability in Asia was also expected to fall….

“Food security management relies on the combined use of environmental and meteorological satellites,” Lafeuille told IRIN. “Meteorological satellites provide real-time information, while environmental or land-surface imaging satellites provide high resolution information on land-cover.”

…The WMO meeting in New Orleans, which ended on 16 January, marked the new contribution of Brazil, which operates a satellite programme with China (CBERS) to monitor environment. Brazil announced it would complement information on Africa provided by the European Organisation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) for several years.

…Among the satellites to be launched are two research stations, the Japanese Greenhouse Gas Observation Satellite (GOSAT) and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), which will monitor carbon dioxide concentration. A new European Space Agency satellite will provide data on soil moisture and ocean salinity. The increasingly uncertain climatic patterns have been blamed on the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which trap heat in the atmosphere.

WMO’s Sivakumar pointed out that while space technology could make substantial contributions to advance knowledge about conditions leading up to the main aspects of managing the effects of climate change - preparedness, prevention and relief of drought and flood, and disaster-risk reduction - application of the information was critical and there was need to build capacity in countries….

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