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Understanding Climate Change using Satellite Data

Explore cutting-edge technology and learn how to analyse satellite climate data to help measure and mitigate climate change.

695 enrolled on this course

Satellite observations of the planet Earth
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    6 hours

Explore the tools that can help with climate change solutions

To accurately study climate change, assess its risks, and mitigate the impact, we need systematic observations of the climate.

There are 54 essential variables used to measure climate change. These essential climate variables (ECVs) are crucial in helping to provide evidence for climate change and implement adaptation methods.

On this three-week course, you’ll explore the state-of-the-art technology used in the Climate Change Initiative programme (CCI) of the European Space Agency, and how satellite data is used to measure climate change.

Through interactive exercises, you’ll be trained to understand climate change and analyse satellite climate data using the CATE (Climate Analysis Toolbox) of the Climate Change Initiative Programme.

With these tools, you’ll find essential climate variables that are indicators of the state and change of the climate and a specific process in the atmosphere-Earth system.

Understand the components of the climate system

You’ll explore many components of the climate system: the water, energy and carbon cycles, cryosphere and land.

This will help you understand the physical processes of climate change from different perspectives.

With this knowledge, you’ll learn how to create and communicate maps, times series, and trends of essential climate variables. You’ll also be able to evaluate the results and provide judgments of the significance of the analysis.

Learn from the experts at the University of Twente

You’ll be guided through articles and videos by world-class scientists on this course led by the specialists at the ITC faculty at the University of Twente.

With a 70-year track record in knowledge transfer in the field of Earth observation, ITC was awarded by the European Space Agency to create this interactive online course.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 22 seconds Climate change is arguably the greatest environmental challenge facing humanity in the 21st century. The consequences of a warming climate are far reaching, affecting freshwater resources, global food production and sea levels. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is leading the international efforts to combat climate change and limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius . To achieve this objective and to make decisions on climate change mitigation and adaptation, the United Nations requires systematic observations of the climate.

Skip to 1 minute and 8 seconds The Climate Change Initiative Programme of the European Space Agency uses satellite observations and merges them and provides consistent and trustworthy climate data records. In this online course, we would like you to have a closer look at the climate, how it changes and interacts with the atmosphere cryosphere, land and ocean. A series of articles and video from world class scientists will guide you through the most important aspects of the climate and its nexus with the earth system and how they are observed using satellite data. Through exercises, you will acquire the analytical skills and techniques to manipulate satellite data of essential climate variables using the Climate Change Initiative toolbox, which is called CATE.

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 seconds This online course is three weeks long, and each week forms and independent learning unit focusing on one specific aspect of the climate. The first week forms a general introduction and can therefore be followed by the public and non-specialist. The second week focuses on land and the climate nexus and the third week focuses on the cryosphere and the climate nexus. As they are independent learning units you can follow one week, combine more than one, or follow the whole three week course. Following the three week course and completing the quizzes and exercises, you will receive a certificate equivalent to one study credit. We trust that education will prepare you, the future generation, with the right competencies to address and mitigate climate change.

Skip to 3 minutes and 11 seconds I am Suhyb Salama and I will be your lead facilitator through this online course. This is your opportunity to learn from world class scientists, work with cutting edge technology, and use state-of-the-art software. It’s your chance to become yourself a scholar working at the forefront of scientific discoveries. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy completing this journey with us.


  • Week 1


    • Welcome

      Welcome to the course on Understanding Climate Change Using Satellite Data.

    • What is climate?

      In this activity, we will introduce atmospheric circulation controlling the climate and differentiate between weather and climate.

    • Main cycles controlling weather patterns and the climate

      Energy and water are the drivers of the climate and its dynamics. Now we also introduce the carbon cycle.

    • How to observe the changing climate

      This activity will provide answers to several questions, like: what is climate change? How do we detect it? What are the variables that describe the climate and why are satellite data are helpful in deriving some of them?

    • The Climate Analysis Toolbox of ESA (CATE)

      With the CCI Climate Analysis Toolbox (Cate) it is possible to process, analyse and visualise climate change datasets.

    • End of the week


  • Week 2

    How land interacts with the climate

    • Welcome to the Land week!

      In this week we will introduce land-climate interactions.

    • Land-climate interactions

      In this activity, you will learn how climate change affects the terrestrial environment and highlight the challenge of food security.

    • Essential climate variables for land

      In this article, you will learn about essential climate variables used to characterise the climate-land nexus and monitor food security.

    • Analysing terrestrial essential climate variables

      You will use climate data records to investigate essential climate variables related to food security in Kenya. Let us start with a short video on satellite products of soil moisture.

    • End of the land week

      Clouser of the land week

  • Week 3


    • Welcome to the Cryosphere week!

      Welcome to the Cryosphere week

    • Sea ice

      In this lesson, you'll learn why sea ice plays an important role in the Earth's energy cycle, and how changes can be observed using satellites

    • Permafrost

      In this activity you'll learn about permafrost, why it is an essential climate variable and how we can observe it.

    • Ice sheets and glaciers

      In this activity you'll learn about the mass balance of ice sheets and glaciers

    • Week closure

      This is the end of the cryosphere week

    • End of course

      End of the online course

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...

  • Understand the physical processes of the climate systems.
  • Explore the CCI toolbox and find essential climate variables (ECVs) that are indicators of the state and change of the climate.
  • Create and communicate maps, time series and trends of ECVs using the CCI Toolbox.
  • Evaluate the results and provide judgments of the significance of the analysis.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone studying, researching, or interested in climate change and satellite climate data.

What software or tools do you need?

You will need to have access to a computer to access the websites used in this course.

Who will you learn with?

Associate Professor in spatial water quality and environmental hydrology. Executed many international projects related to earth observation and climate change. Director of M-GEO at Twente University.

As an assistant Professor at the faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation of the University of Twente, I use observations to study sea level, the water cycle and the cryosphere

I am Gabriel N. Parodi, civil engineer, and senior lecturer at ITC - University of Twente for the Water Department.
I have more than 25 years experience in international education in Remote Sensing.

Who developed the course?

University of Twente

As a young and entrepreneurial university in the Netherlands, the University of Twente prepares young people to tackle the grand challenges the world will be facing during the coming decades.

Endorsers and supporters

funded by

ESA logo

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