Topic 1b - The advantage of looking from space

The Earth is an extraordinarily complex system. Its planetary characteristics are the only ones we yet know of in the Universe to have allowed life to flourish. If certain aspects of the Earth system are set off balance, (for example, if the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide doubles by 2050 from its ‘pre-industrial’ level, as is currently predicted), it can affect many aspects of the rest of the planet, giving rise to multiple ‘feedbacks’ that are not currently fully understood.

Earth observation allows us to view such changes, impacts and feedbacks from a global perspective, and monitor variations in regions that have never before been fully accessible. It not only gives us insight into anthropogenic impacts on the environment, but also provides the evidence needed to compare these against natural variability unassociated with human actions, and to make and inform policy decisions.

EO can provide long term, continuous data sets for a wide range of parameters. Often the EO-derived information is used in conjunction with ground-based (and sometimes airborne) datasets, providing a wide-area synthesis of the current state of particular components of the Earth system, as well as highly accurate point-based observations.

This video highlights some of the important, overarching observations enabled by monitoring the Earth from space, and provides a basic insight into how multiple EO data can be used in combination with other methods of data acquisition to build a comprehensive view of components of our planet.

Featured Educators

  • Professor Alan O’Neill
  • Professor Martin Wooster
  • Dr Emily Shuckburgh

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Don’t forget you can download the video, transcript and take any quizzes available with the links on the right.