The Earth is facing a threat.
The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rising, fuelled by increased emissions. This is causing a substantial rise in temperature across the globe.
Take the Arctic, currently warming more than two times faster than the global average. Or consider Greenland where, since 2000, temperatures in certain regions have surged to more than 8°C above the monthly average, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service. And looking back still further reveals that over the past 40 years, marine heatwaves in the eastern Mediterranean Sea have become considerably more frequent.
The steps we take today matter.
As Europe’s operational satellite agency, EUMETSAT is committed to taking the necessary steps to address climate change and its consequences through cooperative action. In fact, this commitment is built into EUMETSAT’s core. Both its founding convention and mission statement put forth the operational monitoring of the climate and the detection of global climatic changes as one of the agency’s fundamental objectives. The climate data EUMETSAT collects and processes enable experts to better understand climate change and policymakers to mitigate further damage to the planet.
EUMETSAT would like to underscore its commitment to climate action by highlighting its contribution to:
Maintaining records of essential climate variables
Through data from the satellite missions it operates combined with data from partner agency satellite missions, EUMETSAT produces data products about the atmosphere, land, and ocean. These products form the basis of high-quality, long-term climate records of essential climate variables (ECVs) that are important for understanding and monitoring climate change and monitoring.
ECVs represent 53 key physical, chemical, and biological variables that can be used to characterise the global climate system. The satellite data collected and distributed by EUMETSAT contribute directly to 25 ECVs, providing the international community with crucial empirical evidence about climate change.
The consistency and duration of these records – stretching back more than 40 years – make them an invaluable resource for international and national meteorological and hydrological services, climate scientists, and policy makers.
Particularly important are estimates of changing sea level provided by the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission. Data from this mission deepen the understanding of the climate system, as sea level rise and the melting of polar regions and inland glaciers are indicators of ocean warming. High-resolution measurements close to coastlines help countries adapt to the changing climate by providing them with the evidence they need to best protect their valuable coasts.
EUMETSAT is committed to maintaining the highest quality climate records by continuously analysing and reprocessing existing climate data and by extending the records as more complex data provided by future satellite missions become available.
EUMETSAT’s climate records are used in the annual European State of the Climate reports issued by the Copernicus Climate Change Service and provide the foundation for fact-based decision making, which is crucial for responsibly mitigating the consequences of climate change.
Implementing the Paris Agreement
Through the Paris Agreement, which entered into force in 2016, most nations of the world have committed themselves to pursuing efforts to limit the increase in average global surface air temperature to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels.
As a member of the Committee for Earth Observation Satellites/Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites Joint Working Group on Climate, EUMETSAT plays a key role in shaping how space agencies collectively support this goal. On behalf of this group, EUMETSAT maintains satellite data from which the global inventory of existing and planned climate records are derived, which is a key element that space agencies use when reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the annual Conference of the Parties.
In addition, the ground-breaking Copernicus CO2M mission will support the quantification of annual carbon dioxide emissions from localised human sources including megacities and power plants. Through this mission, EUMETSAT will contribute to the global stocktake, a periodic inventory of greenhouse gas emissions taken to determine to what extent the parties to the Paris Agreement are meeting their emission reduction targets.
Informing the United Nations about climate change
In 2021, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued the first part of its Sixth Assessment Report with the purpose of informing policy makers across the globe about the latest physical understanding of the climate.
The panel’s experts handpicked the best data available for this report, choosing to include 45 observation products with EUMETSAT input. This represents a substantial contribution by EUMETSAT to the evidence on which the report is based, accounting for 36% of all data sets that make use of satellite data.
Providing continuous, long-term service
For climate monitoring to be useful, consistent data needs to be collected beyond the lifetime of any individual satellite. EUMETSAT will operate satellites to be launched in the coming years with the goal of continuing and enhancing the services currently provided.
These include continuing its Meteosat and Metop series with two missions, Meteosat Third Generation and EUMETSAT Polar System – Second Generation, both of which will carry state-of-the-art climate-monitoring instruments. These systems will ensure the availability of data into the late 2040s.
In addition, through the European Union’s Copernicus programme, EUMETSAT will remain one of the main operators of the Sentinel satellites. This will enable EUMETSAT to continue its time series that tracks sea level rise.