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Observation capacity mapping in the context of Atmospheric and Climate change monitoring

Specific challenge: Climate research, and atmospheric research, are cases that clearly illustrates the full complexity of needs for validation and calibration of space data, and hence of the remote sensing data at source. The latter includes a range of sensors operated by different space agencies that all need to be sufficiently reliable and accurate to contribute efficiently to the generation of Climate Data Records. More atmospheric species, as well as aerosols, need to be monitored, simultaneously and for the same air mass, at local to global level. The transport and dispersion of these various constituents are critical quantities to be monitored. Space based remote sensing data have to be integrated with measurements taken at  various places in the atmosphere, from the middle atmosphere down to ground level. Efforts must be coordinated at national and international levels to optimize the use of existing in-situ measurements, establishing observation profiles, the deployment of new measuring systems and the design of campaigns dedicated to the calibration and validation of remote sensing data. Vicarious calibration techniques requires detailed and complete documentation of the state of the atmosphere at time of satellite overpasses over a variety of land, water and icy surfaces to span a large range of environmental conditions. The integrated use of different technologies or tools for measuring the atmospheric effects can promote further the earth observation for monitoring the environment.

A comprehensive 3-D coverage has to be developed and implemented together with an appropriate validation strategy. While calibration and validation campaigns are conducted at national and international level, particularly to validate specific sensors and satellites, a European coordinated approach in charting systematically the available and needed instrument suites for systematic climate change monitoring in space and time, and the correspondingly required validation campaigns remains elusive.  

Scope: To achieve this, research is needed to assess gaps in remote observation availability and suitable approaches for defining virtual observation constellations. It should include mapping of ground based networks, airborne, balloons and sub-orbital platforms as well as space based sensors. Appropriate calibration and validation of data is to be assessed, charting the campaigns that will be needed to cover the climate change monitoring needs in years to come from remote sensing data gathered over land, water and icy surfaces. A mapping of available/deployed sensor technologies and measurements should be performed as a first step, to identify gaps in available systems and current knowledge to characterise the atmospheric, measure atmospheric profiles,  profiles and different ground level conditions and ensure the provision of reliable and accurate Climate Data Records for the atmosphere, land surfaces and oceans. This information should also lay the basis for drawing up the need for dedicated calibration and validation campaigns combining instruments and measurements deployed in ground based networks, airborne, UAV, balloons, sub-orbital and in-orbit platforms, as relevant for climate change monitoring. Since this activity is highly reliant on consensus of the users in form of the scientific community involved in subsequent climate change and atmospheric measurements/modelling, the proposal will have to mobilise such key players across Europe and globally, and will have to include mechanisms regarding best practices to reach a consensus on the strategies proposed.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 6 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact: The proposal is expected to lead to significant advances in greater consistency and cross-calibration/validation of long term space based measurements with ground-based historical references, providing a better overview of uncertainty of available data to generate Climate Data Records, including impacts information of space data. Based on the work done, best practices regarding calibration/validation campaigns should be promoted. Proposals are expected to add value to the work of bodies such as the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), WMO Integrated Observing System (WIGOS) and the ESA Climate Modelling User Group.

While this action addresses climate relevant issues, monitored parameters and their uncertainty are important for many other purposes (air pollution, air traffic management etc.) and  the  availability of project material to the wider GMES/Copernicus community should be ensured as well. 

Type of action: Research and innovation actions