The Climate Change Initiative

ESA's Climate Change Initiative is a major research and development effort that generates global, decades-long satellite data records to track and understand key aspects of the Earth climate system, and known as Essential Climate Variables.

The Programme enables a community of over 500 experts from across Europe to exploit the Earth observation archive and data from operating satellite missions to craft high-quality data products that strengthen scientific understanding climate and underpin the models and climate services used to inform support ESA Member States to take climate action and report progress towards the Paris Agreement goals.

These data records support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the International Panel on Climate Change to monitor, assess and address changes to Earth's climate system.


Scientific Impact & Highlights

Science Excellence

The scientific benefits of the Climate Change Initiative are expressed through a body of peer-reviewed publications (c.2,000 as of January 2024) and a growing contribution to the evidence base laid out in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports.

Operational uptake of data products

Prototype datasets, processing systems and algorithms developed via the Climate Change Initiative have been transferred to operational service providers (i.e. EUMETSAT & Copernicus Climate Change Service) to support decision-making.

Strengthening climate models

Multiple CCI observational datasets are available via the WCRP Observations for Model Intercomparison project (Obs4MIPs). Data are technically aligned format to facilitate climate model evaluation, development and research undertaken via the World Climate Research Programme’s (WCRP) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP).

Model-ready data products are available via Obs4MIPS including Aerosols, Cloud, CO2, CH4 and Sea surface temperature with Ozone, Land surface temperature, Ocean colour and Water vapour in progress.



The Climate Change Initiative comprises a suite of research projects (27 as of January 2024) dedicated to the development, production and qualification of high-quality satellite-derived data records and processing systems that address Essential Climate Variables defined by the Global Climate Observing System.

Cross-ECV projects exploit these high-quality CDRs to advance understanding of Earth system cycles, including climate sensitivity in the Earth system, tipping points, and supporting climate applications.

A Climate Modelling User Group works with all projects to ensure data products are suitable from a user perspective.


High-quality global climate data records

All CCI data products take GCOS-definitions for Essential Climate Variables as reference. Using the best available science, they offer the latest (pre-operational) algorithm updates and are validated using independent in-situ measurements. The records are robust with high levels of documented traceability and consistency, including quantitative estimates of uncertainty required by both climate science and modelling communities.

All data products have been evaluated by leading members of the climate research community.

CCI data product features:

  • Global coverage (where applicable)
  • Long time series (20-30 years)
  • Gridded data (at a usable resolution e.g. ¼ degree)
  • Useful temporal resolution (daily, monthly…)
  • Latest algorithm improvements towards GCOS requirements
  • Bias corrected (e.g. across multiple satellites)
  • Validated (by in situ observations) & tested by users
  • Uncertainty characterisation (per pixel, correlated…)
  • Full documentation (CCI documentation) & version control
  • Consistency between CCI ECV datasets (e.g. SST and Sea Ice)
  • Can be sourced back to algorithm choice
  • Level 1, 2 or 3 data
  • Supporting information e.g. cloud masks
  • Open access data via CCI Open Data Portal & Obs4MIPS
Get data

Developing satellite-derived climate data records

The generation of global, multi-mission and multi-decadal data records datasets that address Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) lies at the heart of the forms Climate Change Initiative.

These high-quality satellite data records help track and understand key aspects of the Earth climate system and inform effective decision-making.

From 2023-2029 the Programme will extend and expand the existing portfolio of Essential Climate Variables by exploiting ESA's new satellite missions to address evolving user requirements (e.g., GCOS, IPCC, UNFCCC, Paris Agreement etc).


Peer-reviewed science

The Climate Change Initiative has contributed to over 2000 peer-reviewed publications and provides a major contribution to global and regional climate assessment reports


Data standards

The Climate Change Initiative Data Standards ensure consistency, harmonisation, and ease of use for the varied datasets spanning all data products developed by the Programme.



Users of ECV data records include climate scientists, modellers, applications developers and policy makers


Meetings and events

Climate Change Initiative meetings and events


Reference documentation

Key reference documentation for the ESA Climate Change Initiative


Climate Change Initiative

Find out more about the Climate Change Initiative