Course introduction

Welcome to ‘Monitoring Climate from Space’. In this course, we will introduce you to the powerful role of satellite ‘Earth observation’ (EO) technology in monitoring our changing climate and environment, and to the beautiful and inspiring nature of the imagery and data it produces.

Earth observation (EO) provides an unparalleled means for observing our complex planet. It is an increasingly important tool in monitoring and making decisions about climate change and the environment, and encompasses a wide range of techniques used to map, measure, and monitor an enormous variety of environmental parameters and processes on the Earth.

Using ‘remote sensing’ methods, (i.e. using electromagnetic radiation (including visible light), emitted or reflected by the Earth), the specialised instruments on board EO satellites collect a range of types of data and imagery, at a local and global scale, as they orbit around the Earth. This data enables us to make better informed decisions, over longer timeframes, than is possible by just using other forms of environmental monitoring.

This course will provide you with an overview of the different types of data, imagery and their applications and will introduce you to the fundamental techniques and methodologies of working with this data. You will also learn about the types of satellite orbits and instruments used, and you will discover which parameters of the Earth system can be probed by ‘sensing’ in different ways.

This course focuses specifically on Earth observation from space and therefore relates to satellite remote sensing rather than similar forms of remote sensing often conducted from aircraft or sometimes ground-based sensors. Throughout the course, the terms ‘Earth observation’ and ‘remote sensing’ are often used interchangeably. Also, don’t forget that the word ‘data’ in the context of satellite EO refers to optical imagery and photography, as well as to so-called ‘geospatial’ and numerical data.

For an overview on what each week of this course will cover please click on the course overview button.


This course has been designed and produced for ESA by Imperative Space. The producers would like to thank all of the academics, experts and institutions who have contributed to and supported production of the course. This includes the universities and research centres to which our onscreen experts are affiliated, along with the Satellite Applications Catapult, RAL Space, the National Oceanography Centre, the National Centre for Earth Observation, Inmarsat, WSL (Zurich) and Cité de l’Espace (Toulouse) for their additional assistance.

All NASA imagery and animations used throughout this course are used courtesy of NASA.

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