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The fate of Earth observations, science and services

20 Jun

Today GeoLog features a guest post by Mona Behl, a Visiting Fellow at the American Meteorological Society. Mona explains why Earth observation satellites are so important and why the future of Earth observations, sciences and services might be at risk.

The year 1957 marked the birth of Sputnik I, the world’s first artificial satellite to be launched in space. This launch ushered in an exciting era of growth and change in science. Over the past 50 years, the advent of Earth observation systems (including ground, oceanic, atmospheric, and satellite-based resources) has truly revolutionized the way we see our planet. Satellites are not only our “windows to the universe”; they also provide a unique and revolutionary vantage point from space with global images and data about the Earth and its environment. The exploration, exploitation and application of satellite data drive Earth observations, science and services (OSS) and society as a whole.

However, the fate of Earth OSS appears to be in peril.

A recent report by the American Meteorological Society points out that federal budget deficits and economic downturn are putting a strong hold on building and maintaining Earth OSS. The findings of this report stem from a workshop held by the AMS Policy Program. Describing the technological advances is relatively easy compared to measuring the economic and social benefits of Earth OSS. This study reveals the importance of Earth OSS and how it is integrated into the very fabric of our society.

Whereas space-based observations provide a major contribution to the Earth observation system, observations that are based on land, air and sea are important and provide us with an accurate, global, yet independent view of the Earth. Our society faces a number of challenges today. We rely on Earth OSS not only for increasing the accuracy and breadth of weather information, forecasting and warnings, but also for improving the management and protection of terrestrial, coastal, and marine ecosystems. To understand, assess, predict, mitigate, and adapt to the changing climate, Earth OSS is important. Observation-based data not only serves the government but also has immense private, academic, nonprofit, and public use. From national security to providing information and understanding about environmental factors affecting human health to water resource management, to combating desertification and promoting sustainable agriculture, Earth OSS are imperative to our well-being.

Despite the importance and interconnectedness of Earth OSS to society, why does its future still look grim?

Another study conducted by the U.S. National Research Council concludes that, in the near term, budgets for NASA’s science program will remain inadequate to meet the country’s pressing needs. As a result, the U.S. may have to rely on data from European or other satellites.

However, Europe seems to be headed for a crash as well. In April this year, the European Space Agency declared the demise of Envisat, the world’s largest Earth observation spacecraft. Envisat contributed valuable information to Europe’s Global Monitoring for Environmental Security program by providing measurements of atmospheric chemistry, rising sea levels, plate tectonics, greenhouse gas emissions, and land subsidence. The end of this mission is likely to lead to significant gaps in satellite data.

Envisat (Credit: ESA)

The decline of Earth OSS may be a beacon of a future calamity.

The quality of life, as well as the ability to protect our nations, manage our environment, and adapt to a changing climate are all dependent on the use of the Earth observation systems. Given the enormous potential benefits that Earth OSS affords humankind, society faces a need to rethink priorities and put a concerted effort into ensuring the adequacy and continuity of Earth OSS over the short, intermediate, and longer term.

One of the key recommendations the AMS report makes is to foster private-public collaborations in order to improve and expand Earth OSS. Interagency participation in addition to private-public collaborations is required not only at a national level but at the international level as well. For years, the science and technology communities have discussed and understood the need to link our Earth to its observation systems. However, to ensure the success and growth of our Earth OSS, investment in sound government policies is critical.

The need to monitor and observe the Earth’s environment is now more urgent than ever.

By  Mona Behl, American Meteorological Society

Publications by the EGU

10 May

The EGU is responsible for 14 Open Access journals, all freely available online

Since 2001, the EGU and Open Access publishing house Copernicus Publications has published a growing number of successful geoscientific journals. These include 14 peer-reviewed Open Access journals, of which 11 have a Thomson Reuters Impact Factor, placing them in the top echelon of their respective discipline. EGU also publishes a host of other materials available in paper and online. As a signatory of the Berlin Open Access Declaration (2003), the EGU is committed to making all their publications freely available.

The EGU’s Open Access scientific journals are:


EGU General Assembly 2012 Call for Papers

9 Nov

Abstract submission for the EGU General Assembly 2012 (EGU2012) is now open. The General Assembly is being held from Sunday 22 Apr 2012 to Friday 27 Apr 2012 at the Austria Center Vienna, Austria.

You can browse through the Sessions online.

Each Session shows the link Abstract Submission. Using this link you are asked to log in to the Copernicus Office Meeting Organizer. You may submit the text of your contribution as plain text, LaTeX, or MS Word content. Please pay attention to the First Author Rule.

The deadline for the receipt of Abstracts is 17 January 2012. In case you would like to apply for support, please submit no later than 15 December 2011. Information about the financial support available can be found on the Support and Distinction part of the EGU GA 2012 website.

Further information about the EGU General Assembly 2012 on it’s webpages. If you have any questions email the meeting organisers Copernicus.

Call for Sessions for EGU General Assembly 2012

8 Jul

The public call for sessions for the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2012 has been issued. The EGU GA 2012 will be held at the Austria Center Vienna (ACV) from 22 April to 27 April 2012. The details are below, the web page to visit to submit sessions is Call for Sessions page of the EGU General Assembly 2012 website.

We hereby invite you, from now until 16 Sep 2011, to take an active part in organizing the scientific programme of the conference.

Please suggest (i) new sessions with conveners and description and (ii) modifications to the skeleton programme sessions. Explore the Programme Groups (PGs) on the left hand side, when making suggestions. Study those sessions that already exist and put your proposal into the PG that is most closely aligned with the proposed session’s subject area.

If the subject area of your proposal is strongly aligned with two or more PGs, co-organization is possible and encouraged between PGs. Only put your session proposal into one PG, and you will be able to indicate PGs that you believe should be approached for co-organization.

If you have questions about the appropriateness of a specific session topic, please contact the Officers for the specific EGU2012 Programme Group. To suggest Union Symposia, Great Debates, Townhall Meetings or Short Courses, please contact the Programme Committee Chair (Gert-Jan Reichart).

In case any questions arise, please contact EGU2012 at Copernicus.