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Satellite passive microwave sea-ice concentration data set intercomparison: closed ice and ship-based observations

ESA CCI algorithms are included in a systematic inter-comparison of 10 global sea-ice concentration from passive microwave observations for both the Arctic and the Antarctic - including, three new global sea-ice concentration (SIC) climate data records (CDRs), described in Lavergne et al.(2019).

Having compared against global year-round ship-based visual observations of the sea-ice cover and a global wintertime sea ice concentration data set for closed pack ice conditions, the study, led by S. Kern from the University of Hamburg found that the 10 products agree in terms of climate trends for both hemispheres at their native resolution, but differ quite dramatically in terms of sea ice extent and area.

Several factors explain the differences, relating to algorithm used, resolution, and weather filters. The authors urge users to use a filter to work consistently from one satellite to the next.

New global satellite permafrost maps available

The first global and consistent permafrost maps using satellite observations are now available from the ESA’s Climate Change Initiative.

The release of these maps is timely given that the IPCC, in its latest Special Report, highlight the permafrost warming trend (1980-present) has reached record levels. As a consequence, concern is growing that significant amounts of greenhouse gases could be mobilised over the coming decades as it thaws, and potentially amplify global climate change. 

Caption: Animation showing mean annual ground temperature at 2m depth, the standard depth used to indicate the presence of permafrost. Units Kelvin (273K=0°C)

Permafrost is one of 54 Essential Climate Variables used to describe Earth’s climate by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). However, monitoring has relied on in-situ networks to date, which is challenging as permafrost covers a quarter of the northern hemisphere’s land area. Use of Earth Observation data can provide global and spatially consistent permafrost data coverage for this variable, even in the most remote and inaccessible areas.

Satellite sensors cannot detect Permafrost directly, but a dedicated research project, part of the ESA Climate Change Initiative, and led by Annett Bartsch has used complementary satellite measurements of landscape features including land surface temperature and landcoverUsed in tandem with in-situ observations, the data are anticipated to improve the understanding of permafrost dynamics and the ability to model its future climate impact.

The maps provided by the Permafrost_cci team (University of Oslo CryoGrid model) cover the period, 2003-2017 at a spatial resolution of 1km for the parameters, subsurface temperature and the depth of the active layer – the topsoil that thaws during the summer and freezes again during the autumn. Ground temperature data is provided for several depths (0, 1m, 2m, 5m, 10m) and permafrost extent products are also available.

NEW IMBIE study: Greenland ice sheet is losing mass seven times faster than expected

The Greenland ice sheet is losing mass seven times faster than in the 1990s, according to new research. 

paper published today in Nature details how the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE) team, led by Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds and Erik Ivins at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory present the results of the most complete picture of Greenland ice loss to date.

The study was co-authored by reseachers working on Climate Change Initiative Antarctica and Greenland ice sheet projects and compared and combined data from 11 satellites – including ESA’s ERS-1, ERS-2, Envisat and CryoSat missions, as well as the EU’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 missions – to monitor changes in the ice sheet’s volume, flow and gravity.

New biomass map taking stock of the world's carbon

The ESA Climate Change Initiative officially released the first in a series of global Above Ground Biomass maps today at the Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI) side event at COP25 in Madrid.

Global 2017/18 map of Above ground Biomass derived from satellite data

European Space Agency provides a global perspective of the changing climate from space at COP25, Madrid

ESA is an Observer organisation at the United Nations climate conference (COP 25).

Here, Susanne Mecklenburg, Head of ESA Climate Office, discusses the role of the Agency in advancing the understanding of the planet’s climate, and how it may change in the future today [3 December] in Madrid today.

Interview Transcript below

New salinity maps reveal the impact of climate variability on oceans

Global sea surface salinity 2012 and 2017Since the saltiness of ocean surface waters is a key variable in the climate system, understanding how this changes is important to understanding climate change. Thanks to ESA’s Climate Change Initiative, scientists now have better insight into sea-surface salinity with the most complete global dataset ever produced from space.

The CCI's Sea Surface Salinity research team, led by Jacqueline Boutin of LOCEAN and Nicolas Reul of IFREMER, has merged data from three satellite missions to create a global timeseries that spans nine years, with maps produced every week and every month at a spatial resolution of 50 km.

Understanding coastal sea level change: products available

Sea level change represents a hazard for populations inhabiting coastal zones.  Yet current knowledge is limited as absolute sea level changes at the coast may differ significantly from open ocean due to a number of reasons, including coastal dynamics and atmospheric forcing. Relative sea level will also be affected by vertical land movement, for instance subsidence.

Regional sea level trends over July 2002-June 2016 from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) sea level products.The Sea Level_cci project team present results of contemporary coastal sea level changes along the coast of Western Africa, obtained from a dedicated reprocessing of satellite altimetry data in a recent paper by Marti et al (2019).

The publication describes high sampling rate (20 Hz) sea level data from the Jason-1 and Jason-2 missions over a 14-year-long time span. 

New head joins the ESA Climate Office

Susanne Mecklenburg, Head of the ESA Climate Office

Dr Susanne Mecklenburg has been appointed as the new Head of the ESA Climate Office, joining the team last month [September, 2019].

Based at ECSAT, in the United Kingdom, the ESA Climate Office is the focal point for climate-related activities for the Agency and works to increase the use of satellite-based Earth Observation data in climate science, primarily through the delivery of ESA’s Climate Change Initiative.

She joined ESA in 2007 where she fulfilled roles as mission manager for two high profile environment and climate monitoring satellites, ESA’s Earth Explorer Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity (SMOS), now in its tenth year, and Sentinel-3, developed as part of the Copernicus Programme.

Career Opportunity: Internal Research Fellow (PostDoc) on Exploiting Earth Observation for Climate Research

A new Research Fellowship (postdoc) position is open within the Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes.

The successful candidate will contribute to the activities of the the European Space Agency's Climate Office, based in ECSAT, Harwell, United Kingdom, in cooperation with relevant scientific projects within ESA's Climate Change Initiative programme.

The main activities of the ESA Climate Office main activities include:

Using radar backscatter and AI for better maps of burned area

ESA’s Climate Change Initiative Fire project team introduces a self-adapting algorithm for detecting fire burned area in a paper published online this month in Remote Sensing of Environment. The team say their proposal is particularly helpful for tracking the impact of fire on tropical forests, which are usually shrouded in cloud and difficult to study using optical satellite imagery.

Fires are a natural part of ecosystems but humans can also have a strong role in their frequency and severity, with logging linked to fire occurrence in the tropical forests of Indonesia, for example.

Monitoring changes in the global frequency and extent of land affected by fire is important to better understand fire’s contribution to the build-up of carbon dioxide and methane concentrations in the atmosphere, which cause global warming. The Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) identifies fire disturbance as an essential climate variable for characterizing the climate system. 

Techniques for mapping burned area remotely have typically relied on passive optical and thermal-wavelength sensors, which cannot observe areas obscured by clouds. This new algorithm uses Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar backscatter data to detect changes to the landscape caused by fire, with the advantage that it doesn’t depend on sunlight or cloud cover. 

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