Satellite Imagery From NASA, ESA, JAXA Form Comprehensive View Of Environmental Changes

NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on Thursday that they expanded their Earth Observing Dashboard which documents changes in society and the environment using Earth-observing satellites. With six new sections on atmosphere, agriculture, biomass, water and ocean, cryosphere, and the economy, users can access satellite data from all three agencies and see the relation between human activity and environmental changes across the globe and over time.

Described as an “unprecedented collaboration” between the three space agencies, the dashboard was first unveiled in June of 2020 as a tool to keep track of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy and environment. At the time the dashboard first launched, the agencies stated their intent to add new sections in the coming months.

“NASA, ESA and JAXA collectively represent a unique and valuable human asset – Earth-observing instruments in space that we can use everyday to benefit society and advance scientific knowledge,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in a video which was uploaded alongside the dashboard when it first launched in 2020.

Within each of the newly launched dashboard sections, users can explore visualizations created from satellite data collected over the years. Users can explore the sections of the dashboard by countries and regions to see how different environmental indicators have changed over time.

“Following the collaboration with NASA and ESA on COVID-19, we expanded this dashboard to widely provide the stories on global issues about the environment and climate change to the world in the trilateral collaboration,” said Koji Terada, JAXA vice president and director general for the Space Technology Directorate, in a press release.

Videos uploaded to the ESA’s YouTube channel demonstrate how users can access visualizations of the satellite data in the cryosphere and atmosphere sections of the dashboard.

In the cryosphere section, NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2, ESA’s CryoSat-2, and JAXA’s Global Change Observation Mission – Water work together to bring data monitoring global sea ice thickness.

In the atmosphere section, ESA’s TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (Tropomi) aboard the Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite and the Ozone Monitoring Instrument aboard NASA’s Aura satellite track the world’s atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Data from Tropomi reveals the Australian bushfires from the 2019 to 2020 season emitted 700 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The number is a vast increase from the previous estimation that the unprecedented Australian wildfire season emitted an average of 275 million tons of carbon dioxide.

Under agriculture, the dashboard explores how global crises including Covid-19 and the Russian war in Ukraine have disrupted the food supply and crop conditions. Satellite imagery under the water and ocean section shows that global warming has led to an increase in harmful algae blooms in certain parts of the world, including Lake Erie in North America.

The agencies intend to keep the dashboard updated as new data is collected.

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