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Land Satellite Application Facility (SAF) in support of drought monitoring – EUMETSAT’s Contribution to the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

Desertification is not the natural expansion of existing deserts but the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas due to human activities and climatic variations.

It is one of the most alarming processes connected to soil productivity loss and the thinning out of the vegetative cover. Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification and over 4 billion hectares of land are at stake. The UN estimates that each year desertification and drought cause an estimated $ 42 billion in lost agricultural production.
The EUMETSAT Satellite Application Facility on Land Surface Analysis (LSA SAF) led by the Portuguese National Meteorological Service, is a promising tool to monitor desertification and drought threatened areas, providing an important source of information to combat environmental degradation. The information is also vital for many other activities such as agriculture, forestry and terrestrial transport safety management.
The Land SAF uses operational data from EUMETSAT’s geostationary satellites, Meteosat as well as Metop-A its first polar orbiting satellite, to increase the usage of data over land, land-atmosphere interactions and biospheric applications; products include Land Surface Temperature, Surface Albedo, Snow Cover and Down-welling Surface Long- and Short-wave Fluxes. New developments are Vegetation Parameters, Soil Moisture and Evapotranspiration. The operational Land SAF products are available free of charge in near real time via EUMETCast – EUMETSAT’s Broadcast System for Environmental Data. Archived data can be accessed via the web at
Information on land surface characteristics is needed for many important applications such as modelling and simulation of weather and climate, forecast and analysis of natural hazards and the monitoring of ecological and hydrological systems. Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) models and research on climate change will largely benefit from Land SAF products which offer state-of-the-art land surface schemes.
The Land SAF is currently involved in GEOLAND, an initiative related the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) under the Sixth Framework
Programme. The programme aims to develop and integrate a range of geo-information services and products focusing on land cover and vegetation monitoring with the purpose of helping authorities to fulfil their environmental monitoring and
manage their natural resources more effectively.
EUMETSAT SAFs are dedicated centres of excellence for processing satellite data and form an integral component of the organisation’s distributed applications ground segment. Located at National Meteorological Services in Member States, they use the expertise of the EUMETSAT community to process application-specific data from
geostationary and polar orbiting satellites for a generation of new products and tools
for the meteorological and climate data user communities.
The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites is an intergovernmental organisation based in Darmstadt – Germany with currently 20 European Member States (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom) and 10 Cooperating States (Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the Czech Republic).
EUMETSAT is operating the geostationary satellites Meteosat-8 and -9 over Europe and Africa, and Meteosat-6 and -7 over the Indian Ocean.
Metop-A, the first European polar-orbiting satellite, was launched in October 2006 and is delivering operational data since 15 May 2007.
EUMETSATs Network of Satellite Application Facilities (SAFs) currently consists of eight SAFs tailored for specific themes and applications. SAFs are dedicated centres of excellence for processing satellite data provide operational services, and form an integral part of the distributed EUMETSAT Application Ground Segment.
The data, products and services from EUMETSAT’s satellites make a significant contribution to weather forecasting and to the monitoring of the global climate.