COVID-19: Space Agencies Collaboration
COVID-19: Space Agencies Collaborate for Earth Observation Dashboard
In an unprecedented collaboration, ESA, NASA and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) have created a new tool that combines a wealth of data from Earth-observing satellites to monitor the worldwide impacts of COVID-19. This new online platform is now available to the public. 1) 2)
This tri-agency data resource gives the public and policymakers a unique tool to probe the short-term and long-term impacts of pandemic-related restrictions implemented around the world. The dashboard will continue to grow with new observations added over the coming months as the global economy gradually reopens.
“Together NASA, ESA, and JAXA represent a great human asset: advanced Earth-observing instruments in space that are used every day to benefit society and advance knowledge about our home planet,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science. “When we began to see from space how changing patterns of human activity caused by the pandemic were having a visible impact on the planet, we knew that if we combined resources, we could bring a powerful new analytical tool to bear on this fast-moving crisis.”
In April, the three agencies formed a task force to take on the challenge. The group identified the most relevant satellite data streams and adapted existing computing infrastructure to share data from across the agencies and produce relevant indicators. The dashboard presents users with seamless access to data indicating changes in air and water quality, economic and agricultural activity on a global scale and in select areas of interest.
Air quality changes around the world were among the first noticeable impacts of pandemic-related stay-at-home orders and reductions in industrial activity that emerged from satellite observations. One air pollutant, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is primarily the result of burning fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation, shows up clearly in satellite data. NO2 has a lifetime of a few hours and is a precursor of ground-level ozone, which makes it a useful indicator of short-term air quality changes. The dashboard brings together current NO2 data from two NASA and ESA satellites, along with historical data for comparison. In additional to the global view of NO2, targeted regional areas include Los Angeles, Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, and Madrid.
Changes in another critical component of our atmosphere, carbon dioxide (CO2), are highlighted in the dashboard to probe how global and local reactions to the pandemic have changed concentrations of this climate-warming greenhouse gas. Because of CO2’s high background concentration in the atmosphere and its long atmospheric lifetime of more than 100 years, short-term changes in atmospheric CO2 resulting from changes in anthropogenic emissions are very small relative to expected variations in abundances from the natural carbon cycle.
A recent study in the journal Nature estimated that a three-month economic slowdown such as the world has just experienced would temporarily reduce the expected increase in CO2 concentrations from emissions into the atmosphere by a fraction of a percent. The dashboard presents data from a NASA satellite to look for global-scale, long-term changes in CO2. Carbon dioxide observations from a JAXA satellite zooms in on changes in select urban areas such as New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Delhi. Analysis from both NASA and JAXA data sets are consistent with the estimates of emission reductions in the Nature study.
Recent water quality changes have been reported in a few locations that typically have intense human activities, such as industry and tourism, which have decreased during the pandemic. The dashboard presents targeted satellite observations from all three agencies of total suspended matter and chlorophyll concentrations in select coastal areas, harbors, and semi-enclosed bays to assess what has produced these changes in water quality, how widespread they may be, and how long they last. Long Island Sound, the North Adriatic Sea, and Tokyo Bay are among the areas examined.
Widespread declines in global economic activity are a well-known impact of the pandemic. Observations from space over time of shipping activity in ports, cars parked at shopping centers, and nighttime lights in urban areas can be used as indicators of how specific sectors of the economy have been affected. Satellite data from each agency and commercial data purchased by NASA and ESA are presented in the dashboard to quantify these changes in Los Angeles; the Port of Dunkirk, France; Ghent, Belgium; Beijing, and other locations.
The dashboard will also present tri-agency satellite data looking for signs of changes in agricultural production around the world, such as harvesting and planting due to disruptions in the food supply chain or the availability of labor. Understanding the extent of any such changes would be important in maintaining global and local markets and food security as the world recovers from the pandemic.
NASA, ESA, JAXA Release Global View of COVID-19 Impacts
• May 19, 2022: Continuing the collaboration that produced the COVID-19 Earth Observing Dashboard in 2020, NASA and its international partners in Europe and Japan have combined the collective scientific power of their Earth-observing satellite data in expanding the online resource to document a broad array of planet-wide changes in the environment and human society. 3)
- The expanded dashboard from NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), includes six new focus areas – atmosphere, agriculture, biomass, water and ocean, cryosphere, and the economy – that allow users to drill down into data-driven stories and interactively explore relevant datasets.
- “At NASA, accessibility to data is a top priority,” said Karen St. Germain, NASA Earth Science Division director. “With our partners at ESA and JAXA, this is another important step to getting the latest information to the public about our changing planet, in an accessible and convenient way, which can inform decisions and planning for communities around the world.”
- The dashboard provides an easy-to-use resource for the public scientists, decision-makers, and people who may not be familiar with satellite or Earth observation data. It offers a precise, objective, and comprehensive view of our planet. Using accurate remote sensing observations, the dashboard shows the changes occurring in Earth’s air, land, and water and their effects on human activities. Users can explore countries and regions around the world to see how the indicators in specific locations change over time.
- The agencies collaborated to identify the most relevant satellite data streams and adapted existing computing infrastructure to share data from across the agencies and produce relevant indicators and stories.
- “International collaboration between our space agencies is key,” said Simonetta Cheli, director of Earth Observation Programmes at ESA. “Our advanced Earth-observing satellite data provided by ESA, NASA and JAXA are used every day to benefit society at large and advance our knowledge of our home planet. After the success of the Earth Observing Dashboard, I am delighted to see how our resources and technical knowledge can be expanded and used to further our understanding of global environmental changes and other societal challenges impacting our planet.”
- The atmosphere focus area demonstrates ways in which air pollution and climate change contribute to the biggest environmental challenges of our time.
- In the agriculture focus area, users can explore satellite data that provides insights into agricultural production, crop conditions, and food supply.
- The biomass focus area features a story describing how trees and plants remove substantial amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year.
- In the cryosphere focus area, a story on the effects of global temperature rise on the extent of sea ice allows the reader to interact with a geographic visualization of a JAXA sea ice dataset.
- The water and ocean area focuses on Earth’s largest natural resource and enables users to discover a view of the ocean that is as rich and complex as that of land.
- The economy focus area provides access to datasets that show how Earth's social and economic systems are connected to the environment.
- In addition to the curated stories and dataset offered in each of the focus areas, the Earth Observing Dashboard provides direct access to a dataset exploration tool, which allows users to interactively explore the different indicators in detail.
- "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 I. “From the perspective of contributing to the understanding of the Earth's environment and systems and enhancing the values of Earth observation data, we at JAXA will continue to work on updating this dashboard.”
- Last year, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced a concept for NASA’s Earth Information Center, which is an opportunity for the agency to leverage its data and modeling capabilities to work with trusted government and community partners with longstanding engagement in communities most affected by climate change. The expanded Earth Observing Dashboard complements planning that is underway for the Earth Information Center.
- NASA, ESA and JAXA will continue to enhance the dashboard as new data become available.
- Visit the Earth Observing Dashboard at: https://www.eodashboard.org/
• June 25, 2020: NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) have created a dashboard of satellite data showing impacts on the environment and socioeconomic activity caused by the global response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 4)
The dashboard will be released on Thursday, June 25 during a tri-agency media briefing. The briefing speakers are:
• Josef Aschbacher, director of ESA Earth Observation Programmes
• Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate
• Koji Terada, vice president and director general for the Space Technology Directorate at JAXA
• Shin-ichi Sobue, project manager for JAXA’s ALOS-2 mission
• Ken Jucks, program scientist for NASA’s OCO-2 and Aura missions
• Anca Anghelea, open data scientist, ESA Earth observation programmes
1) ”Space agencies join forces to produce global view of COVID-19 impacts,” ESA Applications, 25 June 2020, URL: http://www.esa.int/Applications/Observing_the_Earth/Space_agencies_join_forces_to_produce_global_view_of_COVID-19_impacts
2) Steve Cole, Sean Potter, ”NASA, Partner Space Agencies Amass Global View of COVID-19 Impacts,” NASA News Release, 20-067, 25 June 2020, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-partner-space-agencies-amass-global-view-of-covid-19-impacts
3) Tylar Greene, Sean Potter, ”NASA, Partners Offer Global View of Environmental Changes,” NASA Press Release 22-045, 19 May 2022, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-partners-offer-global-view-of-environmental-changes
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).