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UK satellites plan to combat climate change

07 Jan 2020

Data on rising sea levels, greenhouse gases and shrinking glaciers could help guide policy makers.

The UK Government and the UK Space Agency announced at the start of 2020 backing for ground-breaking research to analyze satellite images to better predict the impact of climate change.

A new £5 million ($6.5 M / €5.9 M) satellite data center involving the Universities of Edinburgh and Leeds will use satellite technology to help combat climate change, including helping lower the risk of people being affected by flooding. The center will bring together 50 PhD researchers to address the problems caused by climate change.

Measurements from satellites on rising sea levels, greenhouse gases and shrinking glaciers and forests should help provide policy makers, government and industry with the data and knowledge they need to better understand the impact of climate change and make future predictions.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom commented, “This new satellite data centre will give us instant images showing us the true impact of climate change and in doing so, help us develop innovative new ways of tackling it.

“The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change and we have set the bar high, as the first country to legislate to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050, and the fastest in the G20 to cut emissions.”

Dr Anna Hogg, co-director of the centre in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, commented, “Earth observation satellites collect hundreds of terabytes of data per day, delivering important information about how fast glaciers flow, the size of forest fires in the Amazon, and the quality of the air that we breathe.”

Dr Edward Mitchard, center leader at the University of Edinburgh, said, “We are looking for outstanding candidates from environmental science, maths, physics, engineering and computer science disciplines to undertake a PhD in this exciting and innovative center.”

‘Virtual collaboration’

The Centre for Satellite Data in Environmental Science (SENSE), is a virtual academic collaboration and is being established with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council and the UK Space Agency. It will work with 18 businesses and partners, including Airbus and Unilever, who will co-fund, co-design and co-supervise 42 of the PhD research projects.

Professor Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of NERC, said, “The researchers will support cutting-edge scientific discovery, new data-based products and new Earth observation technologies that will provide benefits to society. Working with the UK Space Agency gives students unique opportunities to engage with the wider community.”

The new center will receive £2.3 million funding over three years from NERC’s core grant with money from UK Space Agency for specific student activity support. This will be matched by £3.4 million additional funding from business and industry as well as the universities' own funds.

SPIE announces new Space, Satellites + Sustainability (S3) meeting for September, 2020

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics and publisher of optics.org has announced that SPIE Remote Sensing, SPIE Security + Defence, and the new Space, Satellites + Sustainability (S3) meetings – comprising conferences and exhibitions – will take place in Edinburgh, UK, between 20-24 September 2020.

Comprehensive coverage of scientific topics will be presented, with more than 25 countries represented. These events provide a unique opportunity for scientists, engineers, programme managers and policy makers from around the world to learn about the trends, recent developments and achievements in the areas of remote sensing, security and defence, and now highlighting newly operational and forthcoming satellite systems.

S3 in particular is organized by the University of Edinburgh and SPIE. This interdisciplinary meeting will highlight newly operational and forthcoming satellite systems providing new sensors supporting sustainability. Advances in the processing of big satellite data will be presented alongside novel analytics including those producing actionable sustainability intelligence. More information will be available on the S3 Event Website.

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