Satellites observing Earth provide a clear picture of changes across the entire planet. They provide regular, accurate measurements, including of areas that are difficult to reach such as the polar regions.

One of the suite of sophisticated instruments that will measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere, Sentinel-3’s Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) measures the energy radiating from Earth’s surface in nine spectral bands, including visible and infrared. Combining radiometer and colour data helps us to understand the state of vegetation better.

Earth observation satellites have unique abilities and benefits:

Monitoring climate from Space

ESA-developed Earth observation missions

Although satellites are excellent in providing global and repetitive information on key climate components, they have finite lifespans - from a few years to over a decade - and there can be gaps between missions.

To produce data sets of sufficient length, normally 30 years or more, that allow scientists to identify a change from natural climate system variability, the Climate Change Initiative programme of the European Space Agency (ESA) merges data from multiple archived and ongoing currently operating satellite missions.

Using data from archived missions, ESA Earth Explorers, the Copernicus Sentinel constellation and third-parties the Climate Change Initiative generate continuous consistent and global data records for key aspects of the climate. Known as Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) these records provide the empirical evidence needed to advance scientific understanding of the climate and address the impacts of a changing world.