EnMAP to monitor climate change with a hyperspectral sensor


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body responsible for assessing the science related to climate change, has released Part I of the Sixth Assessment Report. The full report aims to provide the most recent scientific data on climate change since the previous IPCC findings. Here, we discuss how EnMAP’s new sensor technology responds to the most recent reports, exploring how this technology will help policymakers make progress in their fight against climate change.

Monitoring the Earth’s ecosystem to inform solutions to climate change

Earth has been watched from space for many decades. Satellite images captured by space agencies like NASA and ESA have long helped international teams of scientists gain a better understanding of the relationship between human activity and climate change, as well as develop initiatives for s ‘tackle these problems.

Monitoring ecosystems can reveal critical data about the factors contributing to climate change. Monitoring systems can be used to observe changes in agriculture, forests, atmosphere, sea level, coastal erosion, weather conditions, etc., over time. It can also be seen whether the initiatives implemented to slow down and possibly reverse climate change are successful.

The previous IPCC report pointed out that climate change models calculated that the Earth has warmed by 1.5 to 2 ° C, depending on the region of the globe. This increase in temperature has resulted in extreme temperatures, heavy rainfall and an increased prevalence of droughts.

The recently released IPCC 2021 report pointed out that the data confirms that an increase in atmospheric and ocean temperatures was caused, at least in part, by human influence. Monitoring the Earth’s ecosystem offers scientists a way to collect data that strengthens the links between human behavior and climate change, helping them design more effective climate change initiatives.

Image Credit: Vladi333 / Shutterstock.com

Satellite sensors and multispectral technology

Copernicus, a European Earth observation program that integrates satellite data, has been in operation for many years, collecting detailed information on the atmosphere, ecosystem, weather conditions, etc.

Today, a German hyperspectral satellite mission known as the Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program (EnMAP), has been developed to exceed the capabilities of Copernicus with its multispectral technology.

EnMAP is designed to monitor the Earth’s ecosystem via high resolution hyperspectral sensor technology. It overcomes the image resolution limitations and image capture opportunities of current multispectral technology. In addition, EnMAP technology can replace traditional “in situ” measurements that rely on lengthy analytical processes, streamlining this process and providing valuable information faster than previous techniques.

How does the EnMAP hyperspectral sensor work?

EnMAP’s new hyperspectral collects more data than conventional satellites, which typically only collect visible light information. The new sensors will also collect data that is not available to the naked eye, revealing information about the presence of minerals and other materials. This gives scientists richer information to form the basis of their assessments of the nature of climate change. For example, the sensors will be able to detect microplastics in the ocean by analyzing sunlight reflected from polymer molecules in surface water.

Designing better solutions to climate change with EnMAP

Various industries are expected to benefit from EnMAP’s technology, enabling them to design climate change solutions more effectively. Perhaps the sector best placed to benefit is agriculture. The increased prevalence of droughts and floods due to climate change is detrimental to this industry, as the stability of food security decreases every year.

EnMAP will help farmers mitigate the impact of climate change by giving them access to continuous data that could help reduce the frequency of crop failures by estimating levels of nutrient deficiency, pest infestations and water shortages. . In addition, the same satellite data could be exploited to develop climate change policies more beneficial to the agricultural industry.

Amazon surveillance, forests from space, climate change

Image Credit: Harvepino / Shutterstock.com

This sensor technology will also be vital in protecting the world’s forests. Trees provide an opportunity to offset emissions by absorbing CO2 of the atmosphere. Therefore, protecting forests is an essential strategy to combat climate change. EnMAP satellites can assess the effectiveness of current forest management techniques and report on the sustainability of these methods. Likewise, sea level changes can be monitored with a high degree of accuracy, confirming or denying the success of current initiatives to prevent coastal erosion.

What does the future of EnMAP technologies look like?

Although the new EnMAP technology offers solutions to the limitations of previous efforts, it is not without failures. Currently, the technology is costly to the environment, requiring the combustion of rocket fuel, which is counterintuitive to efforts to reverse climate change. Fortunately, the last few years have seen many advances in the field of green energy. It is hoped that the significant advances made in the development of clean aviation fuel will be leveraged in the development of emission-free rocket fuel. Once this is established, EnMAP will be ready to make a significant contribution to monitoring climate change.

Industrial response to climate change

This article is part of the IPCC Editorial Series: Industrial Response to Climate Change, a collection of content exploring how different sectors are responding to the issues highlighted in the IPCC 2018 and 2021 reports. Here, Sensors showcases research institutes, industry organizations and innovative technologies leading to adaptive solutions to mitigate the climate change.

References and further reading

IPCC, (2018) Summary for policymakers. In: Global warming of 1.5 ° C. An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels and associated global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat climate change, sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. In the press

IPCC, (2021) Summary for policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Basis of Physical Science. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S. L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M. I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T. K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In the press.

Zivkovic, O., (2019) A new generation of “hyper” satellites to avoid a climate catastrophe | DW | 05.12.2019. [online] DW.COM. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/a-new-generation-of-hyper-satellites-to-prevent-a-climate-catastrophe/a-51535184

Sornig, M., Fischer, S., Chlebek, C., Muecke, M., Honold, H. and Heider, B., (2019) The hyperspectral instrument on board EnMAP: overview and current state. International Conference on Space Optics – ICSO 2018. Aavailable at: https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2535926

Enmap.org. (2021) EnMAP. [online] Available at: https://www.enmap.org/

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