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  • Satellite Evolution Group

The National Physical Laboratory joins consortium developing new capabilities for Earth Observation

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has joined a national consortium who are developing new Earth Observation (EO) capabilities, including climate information which will be used to address the climate emergency in the UK.

NPL will work with partners on two projects led by the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO). The first project is to create a UK Earth Observation Climate Information Service (EOCIS), the second to develop a new digital infrastructure in the form of an Earth Observation (EO) DataHub (EODH).

EO data from space provides immensely valuable knowledge of the state of our environment, the impact of climate change and options for mitigating and adapting to climate change. It is challenging to transform complex datasets into trustworthy information usable by policymakers and society in general. EOCIS and EODH will create a suite of high-quality, timely climate information addressing national challenges, built on UK expertise, and linked to powerful new analysis capability.

The EOCIS is a national project funded by the UK government through the National Environment Research Council (NERC) which will, for the first time, enable the UK to create, maintain and expand regional and global climate data from space through its own service. This trustworthy data will increase understanding of global climate-related issues ranging from melting polar ice to urban heat, and from changes in lakes and coastal waters, to landscape greenhouse gas emissions. Such information helps target mitigation and adaptation action in an effective manner. In addition to the global perspective available from EO, EOCIS will create UK-focussed data that can address local-scale issues, such as the climate risks to infrastructure.

NPL has an important role underpinning the quality of UK-focussed products. To obtain sufficient density of information for local-scale applications, observations from many satellites need to be combined. NPL will underpin the quality of these combinations by ensuring the input radiometric observations across the considered sensors are interoperable, through cross-calibration – or harmonisation – to a common reference with quantified uncertainties.

Over the coming months, EOCIS will establish a service online where its climate information will be made freely available to all in a bid to advance climate science and enable better informed decisions to meet national climate targets.

In parallel, the UK is developing the EO DataHub. The goal of the EO DataHub is to develop a world leading next generation of computing architecture to better facilitate the opportunities presented by the EO sector. The hub will be a centralised software infrastructure that will provide a new ‘single-point’ of access for EO data offerings from distributed public and commercial centres – including EOCIS data products.

Between the variety of different EO data providers and platforms today, the discovery, access, and pre-processing of “fit for purpose” data, before analysis can begin, presents a significant overhead to even EO experts. Having a ‘single-point’ helps to address these key challenges in EO data access and trustworthiness by providing a common standardised set of services, which the UK EO community can access and use to develop new EO services and tools.

The end-to-end quality of the data distributed by the hub will be a key differentiator between the new UK offering versus current EO services. NPL will define a product quality certification scheme for data on the hub, including cataloguing of data provenance, uncertainty and other quality metadata/metrics.

These projects together will provide the UK with readily available and integrated data sets and information that will be an invaluable and trusted resource for science, policy makers and businesses.

Dr Cyrus Larijani, Strategic BD Manager, NPL said: “NPL is recognised as leading international efforts on EO data quality and ascribing uncertainty/confidence information to it in a readily interpretable manner. NPL is delighted to working with partners on this programme and developing the tools required to support the National Space Strategy.”

Prof. Chris Merchant, lead scientist for the EOCIS at NCEO University of Reading said: “The EOCIS will enable many talented scientists all across the UK to work together, creating information needed to respond to the climate crisis. The new climate data from EOCIS will be used to better understand growing climate risks and how to respond to them. We’ll see new and better climate data from space, for the UK and the world. And we’ll see innovation around getting that information readily into the hands of people who need to use it.”


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