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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.

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.

(Subtitles and transcripts for this video are also available in Spanish and Chinese. Just click on the small pink square in the video controls to select your preferred language, or download transcripts from the bottom of this page).

The launch of this current run of the course coincides with the start of the much anticipated COP21 climate summit in Paris on 30th November 2015. In step 1.25, we have added a special video exploring how Earth observation data informs the fundamental climate science which underpins UN climate negotiations, and how it can support better decision-making and implementation of climate policy. Other references to COP21 are made elsewhere in the course, including in two special introduction films on ocean and ice monitoring in Week 3.

ESA and CNES (French Space Agency) have also made a short film for delegates at COP21 about the role of satellite technology in climate monitoring, which you can view and download at the following link (although this is optional and not part of the course): ESA/CNES COP21 Film (3 min).

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, (ie 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 the introduction video above and the 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.

A certificate is available on this course

If you complete the majority of the steps and every test in this course, you will be eligible to purchase a Statement of Participation, which comes in the form of a printed certificate.


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

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: