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This content is taken from the European Space Agency's online course, Monitoring Climate from Space. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 23 seconds Welcome to the first ESA MOOC on Earth observation from space. We are really excited you are on board with us for this journey.

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 seconds Earth-orbiting satellites are completely revolutionising the picture we’ve got of our home planet. They’re showing not only its great beauty, but also its complexity. We’ve seen from the vantage point of Voyager 1 in the outer reaches of the solar system how small and vulnerable is our planet in the dark blackness of space. Satellites around the earth, however, are giving us the fine detailed that we needs to understand the big problems and challenges we face in climate change, on environmental change. And the rapid advances in technology are now giving us a much more powerful and comprehensive set of measurements than we’ve ever had in the past.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 seconds We are in the midst of a data revolution. With the launch of the Sentinel data, we’ll get sustained observation for the next decade. And these observations will be really important to better understand our planet, understand processes, but also support decision making related to climate change, and monitoring of the environment.

Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds The intention of this course is to excite you about earth observation, its power, and its value. It will set out the fundamental principles by which we make measurements from space. It will tell you about how those measurements are used. It will show you the kind of problems that earth observation can be fundamental to solving. And most of all, it intends to be inspiring and informative.

Skip to 2 minutes and 13 seconds I hope it will be a great opportunity for you to discover the value of earth observation, how we can use it in science, but also to support decisions related to climate change. We want to expose you to the beauty of the data, why it’s fascinating– you will learn about how to use the data in context with other data, how to process them, and how to make the most of it. And we hope this course we bring you a new perspective on this knowledge.

Skip to 2 minutes and 45 seconds So, looking forward to working with you in the next few months, and better understand how to make the most of this data.

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.

Essentially, ‘geospatial data’ refers to the information extracted or inferred from measurements at a specific geographical location. A full glossary of terms used in this course is provided in Step 1.4, which you can refer back to at any time during the course.

You will also have an opportunity to directly interact with certain types of EO datasets via online tools during the course, and there is more on this in the next step.

The main topic videos are the backbone of this course, and you can re-watch them as much as you need to. For further context and more detailed explanations, you can also read the introductory text provided with each video, explore the optional ‘further reading’ links, and look in-depth at information about the data, imagery and satellites provided in each topic.

The course videos begin with Topic 1a in step 1.5. Before that, over the next few steps we have provided a bit more information about the course educators and how to get the most out of this course.

Finally, please note that the subtitles and transcripts for videos in steps 1.14, 1.20, 1.25, 3.1 and 3.11 are also available in Spanish and Chinese. Just click on the small pink square in the video controls to select your preferred language.

We hope you enjoy the course.

Prove what you’ve learned with a certificate

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement to prove what you’ve learned on this course.

This personalised certificate and transcript details the syllabus and learning outcomes, plus your average test score, making it ideal evidence of your continuing professional development (CPD). The Certificate comes in both printed and digital formats, so you can easily add it to your portfolio, CV or LinkedIn profile.

To be eligible, you must mark at least 90% of the steps in this course as complete and achieve an average of 70% or above across any tests.

Alternatively, you can buy a Statement of Participation as a memento of taking part.


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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This video is from the free online course:

Monitoring Climate from Space

European Space Agency

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