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Delivering Earth observations worldwide: GEONETCast

Earth observations contribute to increased understanding of complex phenomena occurring in, on and around our planet. Such observations allow the international community to make more informed decisions and policies to address global challenges, such as climate change and disaster resilience.

Data collected on the Earth is increasingly being made openly and freely available to the public, but what happens when those who need it don’t have access?

To ensure that Earth observations underpin decision-making for the benefit of all, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) has been working for the past decade to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

Through GEOSS, GEO has already made over 400 million open Earth observation data and information resources available via the GEOSS Portal and through the GEODAB API, both part of the GEOSS Platform, in order to contribute to global development efforts.

Not everyone working with Earth observations, however, has the same access to this data, such as in cases where high-speed landlines and/or Internet connectivity are not available, or in regions where terrestrial communication lines are not reliable or have been disrupted by disasters.

In an effort to increase access to Earth observations, GEO delivers data and products on a routine basis using satellite Digital Video Broadcast (DVB) technology to a worldwide user community through its initiative GEONETCast.

Accessible and affordable data

GEONETCast is a global network of cost-effective satellite-based dissemination systems which broadcast Earth observation data, products and services (including space-based, air-borne and in situ data) to areas with otherwise limited access.

“Through the GEOSS Platform where internet access is good, and through GEONETCast for areas where internet access is limited, we look forward to a future where everyone has easy access to the Earth observation data and information they need, when they need it.” —
Barbara Ryan, GEO Secretariat Director

Currently serving approximately 6,000 users in 169 countries, this user-driven and low-cost service operates through 3 GEONETCast Network Centres: GEONETCast Americas (US NOAA), EUMETCast (EUMETSAT) and CMACast (China), with established data exchange between them.

The cost of reception stations is kept to a minimum, resulting in an affordable solution for individuals, communities and businesses to ensure access to the Earth observations they need. A typical GEONETCast reception station includes a standard PC, a Digital Video Broadcast (DVB) reception device, and a satellite off-set antenna, and costs approximately 3,000USD for all equipment and installation.

Regional impact

The number of stations in the Americas has doubled over the past year, with a total of 78 stations operating in 19 countries as of February 2018, and 4 more planned for installation. Many of these stations, including 10 recently donated by the United States to Mexico , are intended to improve early warning and disaster monitoring.

The services and data delivered by GEONETCast allow users to better forecast extreme weather events for better prevention, mitigation and rapid response to emergencies and natural disasters.

Covering Europe and Africa, EUMETCast has more than 4,060 registered reception stations. ACMAD, the Weather and Climate Centre for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Africa, has recently developed seasonal forecasts at the continental level dedicated to the DRR community, based on the information delivered by GEONETCast stations. This enables disaster risk management entities at the sub-regional and national levels to improve their disaster preparedness.

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In the Asia Pacific region, CMACast uses AsiaSat-9 C band transponders to broadcast meteorological and satellite sensing data to over 2,700 registered users. The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) has provided CMACast to 20 countries in the region, in order to improve their capability to predict severe weather and reduce risk.

Global opportunities

The types and sources of data received currently differ by region according to needs and priorities, but GEO envisions a future where GEONETCast is able to transmit the entirety of the GEOSS data and information resources to all receiving stations globally.

As it continues to expand towards this vision, GEONETCast is demonstrating the value of data access, and is contributing to a more resilient society that is better equipped to sustainably face environmental challenges.