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Online course

Monitoring Climate from Space

Explore our planet from space and learn how Earth observation is used to monitor climate change, with this free online course.

Monitoring Climate from Space

Why join the course?

As the crucial COP21 Paris Climate Summit commences, detailed evidence about the process and impact of climate change is needed more than ever. Satellite Earth Observation technology provides a powerful and compelling insight into climate change which can help to underpin climate policy, scientific research and public engagement. But how does this technology work, and how can it achieve the essential detail and comprehensive worldwide view that we need?

Join Lead Educator Professor Martin Wooster and leading climate experts such as Professor Konrad Steffen, Professor Anny Cazenave, Dr Stephen Briggs and Dr Emily Shuckburgh as they reveal the perspective provided by satellite Earth observation. The course is free and fully flexible - you can progress in step with other learners week by week, or take the course entirely at your own pace, with all materials available indefinitely once you have registered.

The ‘live run’ of the course, allowing you to interact with experts and other learners, will continue until 3rd January 2016, and you can register any time up to that date. You can also view and share some ‘highlights’ from the course without registering, using the links at the bottom of this page, including a ‘COP21 Special’ which looks at the role of satellite data in supporting climate negotiations and policy. This film, the course trailer above and a small selection of other videos are also available with Spanish and Chinese subtitles. Just click on the small pink square in the video controls to select your preferred language.

Introducing Earth observation

Seeing the Earth from space allows us to gain this global perspective. By using Earth observation techniques, we can now monitor global environmental change on a scale that has never before been possible.

Earth observation has not only revolutionised the way we perceive our home, but changed the way we understand our profound impact on the environment. This technology has brought on a transformation in the way we observe, monitor and study our planet.

Learn with experts from ESA and leading European research centres

In this free online course, you will join leading experts and scientists from ESA and key European research centres, to explore the science that underpins Earth observation.

We will look at recent and current satellite missions that are providing an archive of essential data; and find out how this data is used in local and international policy and planning.

The course consists of five themed weeks:

Week 1 - Observing Climate Change from Space

What is Earth observation? How do we observe the Earth with satellites? And what role does Earth observation play in climate policy and planning?

Weeks 2 & 3 - Earth Observation Techniques and Technology

How do we use different types of mission, instrumentation and data to study changes to our atmosphere, land, oceans and ice?

Week 4 - Earth Observation in Action

How does Earth observation help us set policy; plan for climate risk, resilience and adaptation; and manage resources and biodiversity?

Week 5 - Managing Earth Observation Data

How do we make sense of the large amount of data produced by Earth observation? Can crowdsourcing and citizen science play a role in developing climate change models?

The lead presenters on this course are: Professor Martin Wooster, King’s College London; Dr Mathias Disney, University College London; Dr Emily Shuckburgh, British Antarctic Survey; Professor Andy Shepherd, University of Leeds. Further expert insight is provided by Professor Alan O’Neill, University of Reading.

Other contributors for the course include: Professor Konrad Steffen, WSL; Professor Anny Cazenave, LEGOS & ISSI; Dr Pierre-Philippe Mathieu, ESA; Dr Stephen Briggs, ESA; Dr Angela Benedetti, ECMWF; Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, ZSL; Professor Chris Merchant, University of Reading; Dr Melanie Ades, University of Reading; Dr Helen Snaith, BODC (NOC); Dr Stephanie Henson, NOC; Dr Simon Boxall, University of Southampton; Dr Paolo Cipollini, NOC; Professor Chris Lintott, University of Oxford; Dr Kirsten Barrett, University of Leicester.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second(plucky violin music)

Skip to 0 minutes and 23 secondsWelcome to the 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 secondsI think there's a willingness among politicians coming to COP21 in Paris to try and find a solution for climate change, because they can see the world is changing around them. There's an agreement amongst the scientific community worldwide, there's a consensus that we understand to a large extent the way that the earth is changing as a consequence of climate. The most fundamental contribution that satellite data have made has been to provide the basic data sets on which our understanding is based. They're really the cornerstone on which our modelling, our prediction, our understanding, and hence, our policies can be built. Earth orbiting satellites are completely revolutionising the picture we've got of our home planet.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 secondsThey'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 detail that we need to understand the big problems and challenges we face in climate change and 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 56 secondsWe are in the midst of a data revolution. Which the launch of the Sentinel Data, we'll get sustained observation for the next decade. And this observation 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 2 minutes and 20 secondsThe 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 49 secondsI 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 will bring you a new perspective on this technology.

Skip to 3 minutes and 20 secondsSo, looking forward to working with you in the next few months and better understand how to make the most of this data.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for people who want to learn more about Earth observation, climate change and monitoring climate from space. The course can also help decision makers, policy makers, educators and communicators, to gain a better insight into how satellite data can help them assess the state of our climate and its changes, in order to support climate science, and adaptation and mitigation decisions.

Who will you learn with?

Martin Wooster

Martin Wooster is Professor of Earth Observation Science in the Dept. of Geography, King's College London (UK), and a Divisional Director of the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO).

Alan O'Neill

Professor of Meteorology at the University of Reading and the former Director of the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation.

Andrew Shepherd

Director of the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling and Principal Scientific Advisor to the European Space Agency's CryoSat satellite mission

Emily Shuckburgh

Climate scientist and Head of the Open Oceans research group at the British Antarctic Survey. I am also an associate of the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research.

Mathias Disney

I'm a scientist, interested in vegetation, carbon and climate. I use satellite observations, 3D models and measurements to try and understand these processes.

Who developed the course?

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. With over 20 Member States, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised certificate in both digital and printed formats, to celebrate taking part.


Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

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