The European Space Agency (ESA) and Future Earth have partnered to facilitate the development and uptake of Earth observation data by Future Earth’s research networks.

The ESA-Future Earth joint program funding supports links by bringing Future Earth scientists to meetings and trainings organised by ESA, to promote the potential of Earth observation data to new communities and develop links with the GRPs and KANs. It also increases ESA’s involvement in Future Earth conferences and events, supporting with sponsorship, keynote speakers, expert scientist participation and joint sessions. There is some limited travel support available to support strategic attendance (for events at least six months in advance, please directly email Sophie Hebden to develop an idea such as a conference training session).

The partnership includes seed funding to stimulate new collaborations around the use of ESA’s EO data, such as the research datasets developed via ESA’s Climate Change Initiative (CCI) and ESA’s Open Science Data Catalogue. CCI datasets are continually being developed for land cover, high resolution land cover, vegetation parameters, land surface temperature, soilmoisture, anthropogenic water use, river discharge, fire, biomass, lakes, permafrost, snow, glaciers, ice sheets (Antarctica and Greenland), sea ice, sea level, sea state, sea surface salinity, ocean colour, sea surface temperature, greenhouse gases, water vapour, ozone, aerosol, precursors for aerosols and ozone, and cloud.

They are freely available from the CCI Open Data Portal and many are now produced operationally by climate services such as the Copernicus Climate Change Service.  Satellite data from ESA can also be explored and accessed from the Copernicus Data Space Ecosystem.

Learn More

Sophie Hebden

Liaison, Future Earth and European Space Agency


Network of observatories and workshop: ‘Participatory land observatories for a sustainable Andes’
Global Land Programme
The initiative will establish the first network of “social-ecological observatories”, working to identify, compile, re-scale and integrate maps of social-ecological systems for the tropical and subtropical Andes of South America, and improve upon the data available using Earth observation products from ESA and GEO Mountains. The team will carry out a participatory mapping session to develop a preliminary map of Andean social-ecological systems, and hold a face-to-face workshop (4-5 days) in northern Argentina in May 2023. This workshop will serve as a starting point to strengthen the network, foster collaboration, and prioritize research gaps and social-ecological issues. It is led by an interdisciplinary group of researchers from Instituto de Ecologia Regional (IER), Instituto de Investigaciones Territoriales y Tecnológicas para la Produccion del Habitat (INTEPH), from Universidad Nacional de Tucumán – CONICET (Argentina), Freie Universität Berlin (FUB – Germany), and Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela), who aim to publish two peer reviewed papers.
Contacts: Julieta Carilla (IER), Maria Piquer-Rodriguez (FUB)

Workshop: ‘FLARE: Fire science Learning AcRoss the Earth system’
Fire redistributes nutrients from the local environment to global ecosystems via smoke in the atmosphere and ash in rivers. Recent evidence suggests that wildfire-induced nutrient redistribution impacts marine ecosystems by fertilising phytoplankton in nutrient-depleted waters. Increasing trends in wildfire activity and stratified, nutrient-depleted ocean waters suggest that nutrients supplied to the oceans from wildfires will become a critical player in marine productivity in the coming decades. It also highlights one of the ways that increasing wildfire activity can alter the Earth system. The speed of change and the multidisciplinary nature of the problem urge a coordinated research strategy, sharing knowledge on the role of wildfires across all land, atmosphere, and ocean interfaces and how to observe changes from space. To trigger the creation of an integrated wildfire science community, SOLAS will host a 3-4 day workshop with experts from each field represented. The goal is to develop a roadmap for coordinated wildfire research for the next 5- 10 years.
Contact: Douglas Hamilton (North Carolina State University)

Online workshops, trainee mentoring and digital ‘demonstration tools’ for stakeholders: ‘Expanding EO data usage to address climatic changes in the marine biosphere of the northwest Pacific and Indo-Pacific regional seas’
IMBeR (Workshop report, Final report)
This project stems from the ongoing IMBeR study group activities of the Ocean Colour-based Plant species identification and Carbon flux in the Indo-Pacific oceans (OCPC) and coastal studies in relation to Future Earth Coasts. Compared with European seas, the optical characteristics of coastal and open ocean waters of the northwest Pacific and the Indo-Pacific regional seas have not been investigated enough to support sustainable exploitation of marine resources. Human pressures and climate change pose many issues such as eutrophication, heat waves, and unsustainable exploitation of the marine biosphere. Through the synergistic use and fusion of multi-source, multi-temporal and high spatial scale data from geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites, the team aim to quantify the basic optical properties of these seas, and identify major phytoplankton species and groups and the key factors controlling the biological carbon pumps in these seas. The group will expand their demonstration efforts of the Earth observation data and their open software tools, holding a series of online training workshops. Ten trainees will be selected from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines who will be mentored to carry out validation and tailoring of the software to their region. Digital demonstration tools will be developed to support communication with governments and regional fisheries and environmental management departments for informed decision making.
Contact: Fang Shen


Pilot study: ‘Child health, climate, and land system change in Sub Saharan Africa: advancing planetary epidemiology through Earth Observations’
Health KAN
The African continent is undergoing fast change due to the interacting and compounding effects of climate change and land system change, marked by the expansion of agricultural land and loss of natural vegetation. This poses a health risk to vulnerable communities, yet empirical evidence on the impact on health is limited.

This project aims to examine how epidemiological research on the interacting impacts of climate change and land system change on child health in Sub Saharan Africa can be advanced through the use of high-resolution satellite data. It will explore how land system change can be detected from EO data and derive metrics for epidemiological research. Their use will be piloted in analyses of georeferenced records of child mortality and nutritional status from a longitudinal study of a rural subsistence farming population in Burkina Faso. It will deliver lessons on the strengths, limitations, and opportunities for linking EO and health data, and foster research collaborations to further advance EO-powered planetary epidemiology and monitoring.

Workshop: ‘Towards a global biodiversity monitoring system’
The increasing threats to biodiversity, as well as the rapidity of the resulting change, requires monitoring of biodiversity change and associated drivers of change. The Global Biodiversity Framework currently under development with its associated monitoring framework highlights the need for a global monitoring system that supports countries in reporting their progress. This high-level workshop will take place on 26th June 2022 at the World Biodiversity Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

It will bring together participants from key organizations to explore to explore the necessity of such global biodiversity monitoring systems, what the monitoring gaps are that such a system would fill, who the users of such as system would be, and which organizations could contribute to establish such a system. The main outcome of the workshop will be a synthesis report and white paper, outlining a vision of a global biodiversity monitoring framework and its purpose.

Constraining High Latitude Dust activity in Greenland using the Sentinel constellation
Mineral dust aerosols play a prominent role across interacting environmental systems, with dust transport linking terrestrial sources to sensitive sinks, such as oceans and the cryosphere. The particular role of dust in the high latitudes is a new focus for research, with high latitude dust (HLD) sources estimated to contribute as much dust annually as Australia. This project will use a wide suite of ESA data to understand dust emission and transport from high latitude sources, with a focus on Greenland and Alaska. In summer 2022 it will train two students in embedded summer placements to use Sentinel-2 data to establish an inventory of dust point sources, making use of Sentinel-5P for quantification of aerosol burdens associated with dust outbreaks. The project will then hold a virtual workshop in conjunction with the international IceDust Association and SOLAS and IGAC activities, with opportunities for presentation for early career researchers. The work will be reported in peer-reviewed journal articles.

Bullard, J., Baddock, M., Hall, A., and Rideout, J., Location, timing and trajectory of dust emissions from ice-free Greenland (2016-2021), Conference poster


Four projects were selected to develop online demonstration tools that tackle the threats posed by increasingly frequent cholera outbreaks, storm damage and flooding, and extremes of urban heat.

The projects have consulted with users and scientists across the Future Earth networks to develop information tools that will be showcased at the UNFCCC COP-26 meeting in November 2021 in Glasgow, UK. They feature on the Space Climate Observatory (SCO) pages as case studies.

City Explorer shows the expected benefits of urban green and blue space, and combines Earth observation data, city maps and a model of ecosystem services. For user-defined areas, it can predict the improvements to air pollution, urban heat and noise pollution. It is led by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK and demonstrated in Paris. This tool is featured in Coventry’s City of Culture exhibit in the UK this summer, and is accredited by the Space Climate Observatory.

Post-storm beach recovery on the Australian Gold Coast investigated the erosion effects of large storms, detecting the new coastline using an automated methodology. The project is explained on an ArcGIS storymap and is accredited by the Space Climate Observatory. It was led by Telespazio UK in partnership with the Coastal and Marine Research Centre (CMRC) at Griffith University, Australia.

The EARWAC project for enhancing adaptation and resilience along West Africa’s coasts is developing a dashboard and assessment of coastal vulnerability, following extensive user consultations in the region. It is led by early career researchers from Future Earth’s Ocean KAN based at Sixth Avis Ltd, Nigeria.

PODCAST-Demo is developing a web-based visualization and analysis tool for climate-driven hotspots of cholera in the northern Indian ocean. The information is based on a pilot cholera-risk model that uses satellite observations from the European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative, in-situ and clinical data from publicly available archives. It is led by researchers at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK, and is accredited by the Space Climate Observatory. This project was highlighted this year by the BBC World Service in 5 local languages, and is also now involved in a large pilot project for cholera early warning action supported by UN OCHA.

Past events funded under the Joint ESA-Future Earth Partnership:

Workshop: Remote Sensing of Tipping Points in the Earth’s Climate System
AIMES – Analysis, Integration, and Modelling of the Earth System
This forum held 26-29 January 2021 brought modellers and the remote-sensing community together to discuss how Earth observations can contribute to our understanding of tipping elements in the climate system and help with early warning of change. Hosted by the International Space Science Institute and convened by ESA Climate Office and the Future Earth AIMES project, the interdisciplinary meeting highlighted research opportunities, challenges, and recommendations that will be published in commentary papers. The thematic areas explored during breakout sessions were tipping elements in the cryosphere – the planet’s snow and ice-covered regions; the terrestrial biosphere; and the atmosphere and ocean and its biota. Modellers reported that remote sensing was viewed as an emerging opportunity, and felt that holding the meeting online meant the group was more mixed and therefore more valuable for learning new information and making new contacts. Follow-up will be via the new AIMES working group on tipping points to continue this valuable exchange of ideas.

Workshop: Linking Earth Observation Data and Sustainable Development Across the Atlantic
FEC (Future Earth Coasts – formerly LOICZ)
FEC aims to set up a new community across different scientific disciplines and economic activities relating to the Atlantic basin, particularly from the South and Central Atlantic, for routine use EO data in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. Towards this aim, ESA supported a workshop in Estoril, Portugal, 3-5 December 2019 to coincide with the 3rd Marine Technologies Workshop 2019 organized by Instituto Hidrográfico. It aims to attract new users of EO data, likely technicians and scientists from marine-related activities in Fisheries and Aquaculture, Spatial Planning, Coastal and Risk Management, Security and Pollution. It will include discussion and discovery sessions for capacity development on the use of EO data across diverse thematic areas: Environment, Ocean, Coast and Sustainable Development Goals.

Workshop: Essential Climate Variables for Observations in Mountains
Mountain Research Initiative / GEO Mountains
This workshop was co-organised by the Mountain Research Initiative and the Group on Earth Observation’s Global Network for Observation and Information in Mountain Environments (GEO Mountains). It was held in Berne, Switzerland, 24-26 June 2019, with the aim of identifying and selecting essential climate variables (ECVs) to guide ‘Elevation Transect Data’ for monitoring climate change and its impacts in high elevation contexts. Participants condensed the most relevant indicators from the GCOS list of 54 ECVs, defined key criteria for data collection protocols and standards, and listed in-situ and remote-sensing methods feasible for application in high elevation regions. An Open Access paper from the workshop has been published in OneEarth, supported by the Joint ESA-Future Earth programme.

For more information on GEO Mountains please take a look at the newly launched website:

Workshop: Fifth Interdisciplinary Biomass Burning Initiative (IBBI)
Fifty-three participants from 15 countries gathered in July 2018 in Boulder, Colorado, for the Fifth IBBI Workshop. As well as changing the land surface, biomass burning releases large amounts of trace gases and aerosols to the atmosphere that play important roles in atmospheric chemistry and climate. However, there is large uncertainty on how climate change and global change will impact the frequency, intensity, duration, and location of biomass burning in the short- and long-term, making their emissions a large source of uncertainty in future atmospheric composition. The workshop discussed how to leverage the efforts in the U.S. and Europe to improve scientific research and understanding of open biomass burning around the world and maximize the benefits from the new satellite instrumentation. The workshop discussed linking smoke plume properties to fire characteristics – like flaming versus smouldering – in US field campaigns. It also developed plans for visiting scientist involvement in making campaign results accessible to groups worldwide, with likely long-lasting effect for years to come.

Workshop: Ecosystem Studies of Subarctic and Arctic Seas Meeting
IMBER (Integrated Marine Biogeochemistry Research)
Support was given to the ESSAS meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, held from 12 to 14 June 2018, which focused on remote sensing applications in the study of climate change impacts on high-latitude ecosystems. Additional sessions and workshops focused on ocean acidification, where ESA work was highlighted, and other stressors; the biology, ecology and paleoecology of Arctic Gadids, and the use of Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEA) as a framework for understanding and managing subarctic and Arctic marine ecosystems.

Workshop: Remote Sensing for Studying the Ocean-Atmosphere Interface
The workshop was designed to advance knowledge of the Core Theme 2 (Air-sea interface and fluxes of mass and energy) of the SOLAS Science Plan, sponsored by ESA through Future Earth, NASA, the Scientific Committee for Ocean Research (SCOR), and SOLAS. Held at the Bolger Center, Potomac, Maryland, USA, 13-15 March 2018, it brought together 43 experts and students from nine countries (Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, UK, and USA) to discuss novel and new remote sensing techniques to study the ocean atmosphere interface. The presentations were grouped into new and future sensors and missions, remote sensing of challenging properties and processes, remote sensing of air-sea fluxes, and remote sensing in challenging conditions. It was stressed that SOLAS wields influence in space agencies to set priorities for future missions and guide specification and selection of instruments, which SOLAS members should take advantage of. A workshop outcome is an accepted session at the ESA Living Planet Symposium held in Milan, Italy in May 2019 entitled “Remote Sensing of the Ocean Surface and Lower Atmosphere – a SOLAS Session”.

Workshop: Challenges and promises of using predictive, spatially continuous variables in species distribution models: methods and applications
Held in February 2018 at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, the workshop was organized in two parts: the first, under the responsibility of the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment, bioDISCOVERY and the Global Land Programme, focused on the use of Remote Sensing data for informing Species Distribution Models (SDMs). The second part, under the responsibility of the ESA GlobDiversity project, focused on data requirements for the development of ecologically useful RS-enabled Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs). It gathered 40 participants to review how the remote sensing and SDM communities benefit each other, explore methodological and conceptual challenges of using remote sensing data in SDMs – in particular those associated with measurement errors and error propagation – using mountain-specific case studies; and evaluate how high spatial resolution remotely sensed EBVs can contribute to large scale biodiversity monitoring and simultaneously inform local SDMs. Workshop outcomes included the publications: Randin et al., Monitoring biodiversity in the Anthropocene using remote sensing in species distribution models

Workshop: Understanding the effect of environmental and climate change on coastal lagoon management: Potential and challenges for Earth Observation
The 3-day workshop took place in the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI), Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork, Ireland 12-14th September 2017 and was structured around three themes: Lagoon monitoring and management issues; The potential of Earth Observation for coastal lagoon monitoring and management; and Challenges posed and potential identified solutions towards future research. Presentations are available here. Vulnerable coastal lagoon ecosystems around the world were chosen as case studies to carry out a hands-on assessment of the applicability of EO and other datasets (in-situ, auxiliary) in tackling these issues. ESA CCI ECVs that were discussed included SST, Ocean Colour, Sea Level and Land Cover, and information and data extracted in a study site (Curonian lagoon) was presented to showcase the potential of EO and ECVs, and inform the workshop discussions. The potential for new and emerging EO platforms (e.g. ESA Coastal-TEP and H2020 Co-ReSyF) and the ESA CCI Toolbox was also discussed. Finally, a new scientific hub, the Lagoons Forum, was established during the workshop.

Workshop: Harnessing Remote Sensing to Address Critical Science Questions in the Ocean-Atmosphere Interface
This meeting was dedicated to highlighting the key challenges in the Surface Ocean-Lower Atmosphere Study sciences, and how remote sensing measurements and approaches can help address them. Held at ESA-ESRIN, Frascati, Italy, 13-15 June 2016, it brought remote sensing, SOLAS, and related sciences experts together to brainstorm on the issue, and to produce few examples of key SOLAS problems that could be approached by new or improved remote sensing methodologies. The workshop ideas, including ideas for new missions, are presented in Neukermans et. al. Harnessing remote sensing to address critical science questions on ocean-atmosphere interactions.

Map of Above ground biomass in 2020, using data generated by ESA CCI Biomass.