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Copernicus to embark on a 40-year Earth observation mission

On 12 March this year, the European Parliament ratified the new European Earth Observation programme with its budget of €4.3 billion, covering the period from 2014 to 2020.

Copernicus is the programme previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) coordinated by the European Commission in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA).

The set of systems making up Copernicus continuously collects data, over the long term, that can then be used for land, marine and atmosphere monitoring, tracking climate change and also for security surveillance (managing natural disasters and keeping track of maritime traffic in particular).

The European Parliamentary debate referred to a host of possible applications, including “data collection on water quality to enable authorities to better protect bathing water and predict algal bloom,” and “collecting data concerning currents, winds and icing at sea, to improve maritime traffic services and search and rescue operations”. Another keenly awaited application focuses on monitoring climate change, with the uninterrupted very-long-term analysis of masses of data to provide the clearest picture yet of the variations in temperatures and levels of seas and oceans, ice-cap melting, solar radiation, flood forecasting, greenhouse gases, etc.

All the data will be collected from a host of ground, sea and atmospheric sensors. Five Sentinel satellite missions will also have a crucial role, forming the cornerstone of the Copernicus programme as they cover a highly extensive field of observation … for 40 years no less!