Monitoring the Oceans from Space

Explore our oceans from space. Discover how Earth observation allows us to monitor ocean health, and inform policy and planning.

8,614 enrolled on this course

Satellites around earth with the ocean as a background
  • Duration

    5 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

This free online course will provide an introduction to ocean monitoring Earth Observation (EO) satellite data, and its uses, types and challenges. It will explain how the data is acquired and used, the range of data types available, and the terminology and techniques involved.

The course is presented by physicist, oceanographer and broadcaster Dr Helen Czerski from University College London, remote sensing specialist Dr Hayley Evers-King from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and the lead educator Dr Mark Higgins from EUMETSAT.

The course is run by EUMETSAT in support of the Copernicus Programme.

Explore ocean monitoring EO data using real-world examples

You will look at practical examples of using ocean monitoring EO data - in real-world case-studies and in a range of areas of policy and decision-making - and will explore emerging technologies and trends.

The course will introduce you to the operational marine data stream from EUMETSAT in the context of the ‘Copernicus’ programme. It will highlight the role of the Sentinel-3, Sentinel-6 and Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellites and the contributing missions providing marine data for Copernicus – such as Metop and Meteosat. You will also explore the role of the Copernicus Marine Environment Service (CMEMS), focussing on the applications of its data for users and its wider benefits to society.

Examine different areas of ocean monitoring week by week

The course consists of five themed weeks:

Week 1 - Oceans and Climate

How do the oceans play a key role in the Earth’s climate system? How are the oceans set to be affected by changes in climate and why is satellite data so valuable for addressing multiple challenges in the marine environment?

Weeks 2 & 3 - Oceans, Weather and Hazards

What role do our oceans play in weather forecasting? How does monitoring our oceans from space play a key role in this and how is satellite data used in weather models? How can we use satellite data to understand ocean hazards?

Week 4 - Living Oceans

How do satellites help to monitor, quantify and preserve ocean biodiversity?

Week 5 - Oceans and Us

How does Earth observation help us to set international policy, manage ocean resources and biodiversity? How can the oceans be used for renewable energy? How can the public get involved in ocean science?

Learn with ocean monitoring experts from EUMETSAT and major research centres

Throughout the course, you will learn with experts from EUMETSAT - one of the key global organisations involved in ocean monitoring using satellite data - and from its research partners including Plymouth Marine Laboratory, National Oceanography Centre, CLS, Mercator Ocean, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

(Animations, data visualisations and imagery from ESA, NASA and CMEMS are provided courtesy of ESA, NASA and CMEMS. This course is produced for EUMETSAT by Imperative Space).

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Skip to 0 minutes and 31 seconds Welcome to the EUMETSAT course on monitoring the oceans from space. The oceans, this vast expanse of blue, are the biggest feature on our planet. They’re the reason that we call Earth “the blue planet.” They’re an important part of the Earth’s engine. And they matter for all of us– all of our everyday lives.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds Like much of our Earth and atmosphere, it’s changing. And we’re watching the changes happening. But along with those changes is coming a revolution in satellite technology. The oceans are enormous. And so instead of going out to individual places, we can have satellites orbiting overhead, watching the oceans for us constantly. And now more than ever, established systems of satellites are watching the oceans. And this course is all about the data that they provide and the difference it makes to our lives.

Skip to 1 minute and 24 seconds Monitoring the ocean tells us about hazards. It tells us about how to manage the ocean sustainably. It tells about how our climate is changing. And it tells about our food supply. So it’s not just scientists that are using this information. It’s policymakers, and it’s all of us.

Skip to 1 minute and 43 seconds We’re very connected to our marine environment. You can see tourism, fishing boats, military vessels, lots of people out having fun, sailing, for example. We need to understand how we interact with the marine environment and how we impact it in order to preserve these sorts of activities for the future.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 seconds Welcome to EUMETSAT, the home of this course and the heart of many of the satellite operations we’ll be looking at.

Skip to 2 minutes and 18 seconds It’s incredibly important to know what the oceans are doing. And the role that satellites play in that is the story we’d like to tell. We’d also like to bring people a bit inside to how we look after the spacecraft and how we get the data out to people and also just to show the variety of users that there are who use all this data and what they’re doing with it. And this satellite data really matters for individuals. It affects people’s lives. This is a really exciting time. We’ve just had some new satellites launched. You’re going to hear a lot about Sentinel-3 during this course.

Skip to 2 minutes and 46 seconds That is a game changer in terms of the research we’re going to be able to do with it. I work with satellite ocean color. And that’s very intimately connected to the biology of our oceans, which has lots of applications that we can use to help people. So there’s lots of variety and lots to look forward to on this course.

What topics will you cover?

  • Satellite Earth observation technology, terminology and the types of data products available when monitoring the oceans
  • The main types of data acquired through the Copernicus programme and other ocean satellite missions
  • The use of satellite data in weather forecasting and understanding ocean hazards
  • How satellites help to monitor, quantify and preserve ocean biodiversity
  • The use of Earth observation data in a range of scientific, policy and decision-making areas, in conjunction with models
  • How to access, process and work with Earth observation data and ocean parameters

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore how we observe and measure the oceans with satellites
  • Understand the operational and service elements of the Copernicus marine data stream and how it helps to improve oceanographic models
  • Understand the importance of satellite observations for marine environment monitoring and in particular for CMEMS
  • Recognize the importance of the data for monitoring environmental processes in the oceans
  • Investigate how satellite data is used in policy and decision-making, in a range of arenas, in conjunction with models

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for people who want to learn and explore more about Earth observation and ocean monitoring from space. It is ideal for new potential EO marine data users as well as existing professionals working in other areas of EO, oceanography or environmental science.

It will also help policy-makers, decision-makers, communicators, educators and the general public gain a better insight into the use of satellite data in environmental and ocean monitoring.

Who will you learn with?

I am an educator, meteorologist and change agent working for EUMETSAT: Europe's weather and climate satellite organisation.

Physicist, oceanographer and broadcaster, based at UCL. Presenter of the Monitoring the Oceans from Space MOOC.

Marine Application Expert working to bring data from space to people working with, in, and on our beautiful oceans! Also likes to make satellites out of cake...

Who developed the course?


EUMETSAT is the European operational satellite agency for monitoring weather, climate and the environment. It is an intergovernmental organisation with 30 Member States. EUMETSAT operates the Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellites and Sentinel-6 and will also operate and deliver products from the Sentinel-4, and Sentinel-5 instruments. EUMETSAT will also operate and deliver data from the Copernicus anthropogenic carbon dioxide-monitoring mission, CO2M.

Learning on FutureLearn

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  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
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  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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