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Space Agencies Collaborate to Monitor Rising Sea Levels & Temperatures

15th July 2021
A new NASA Earth System Observatory aims to help mitigate climate change
A new NASA Earth System Observatory aims to help mitigate climate change Credit: courtesy NASA

Space agencies in Europe and the US have signed a partnership to monitor rising sea levels and temperatures, melting ice, thawing permafrost and other impacts of climate breakdown.

NASA in the US and the European Space Agency (ESA) formalised the partnership this week with a “statement of intent”.

The agreement signed by ESA director-general Josef Aschbacher and NASA administrator Bill Nelson aims to “pave the way to leading a global response to climate change”, the organisations state.

“Climate change is an all-hands-on-deck, global challenge that requires action – now,” Nelson said.

“NASA and ESA are leading the way in space, building an unprecedented strategic partnership in Earth science,” he said.

“ This agreement will set the standard for future international collaboration, providing the information that is so essential for tackling the challenges posed by climate change and helping to answer and address the most pressing questions in Earth science for the benefit of the US, Europe, and the world,” he added.

This is not the first time ESA and NASA have joined forces – both bodies worked together on field campaigns in the Arctic to validate respective missions.

The two agencies also work together and with other partners on the recently launched Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission, a new project to extend the long-term record of sea-level rise.

In May, NASA announced its Earth System Observatory, which will design a new set of Earth-focused missions to provide key information to guide efforts related to climate change, disaster mitigation, fighting forest fires, and improving real-time agricultural processes.

This week’s joint statement of intent “complements activities underway for the Earth System Observatory”, they state.

Both ESA and NASA are currently defining a new gravity mission to shed new light on essential processes of the Earth system, such as the water cycle.

This will ‘weigh’ water in its various locations, such as underground and in the oceans, to understand water mass distribution and transport, they explain.

Josef Aschbacher said that “without doubt, space is the best vantage point to measure and monitor climate change, but joining forces is also key to tackling this global issue”.

“Timing is also important, particularly as we look to the COP26 climate conference later this year, where we have the chance to further make space an integral part of the solution when it comes to climate-change mitigation,” he said.

Published in Marine Science
Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.

 

At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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