Science community invited to ESA's Living Planet Programme Strategy Workshop

The Living Planet
13 January 2006

Since the 1990's, ESA's approach to observing the Earth from space has been dedicated to furthering our understanding of how Earth processes work, monitoring climate change indicators, testing new observational techniques and making contributions to operational meteorology. It is now time to take stock of what has been achieved, but more importantly look to the future to ensure that ESA continues to provide the best possible service to its users.

To this end, a framework for a new Earth observation strategy has been developed and follows on from the previous guideline strategy the “Science & Research Elements of the Living Planet Programme” (ESA SP-1227) established in 1998. The new strategy will be presented to the science community at a meeting entitled 'The Changing Earth, Scientific Challenges for ESA’s Living Planet Programme Strategy Workshop'.

The aim of the workshop, which will be held at ESA-ESRIN, in Frascati, Italy on 15-16 February 2006, is to open the forum to the science community to provide their feedback on research areas to focus on in the next phases of the Programme. This approach is fundamental to the Living Planet Programme, which aims at the development of Earth Observation Missions in close cooperation with the scientific community.

Over the last 8 years, six Earth Explorer mission concepts have been developed to provide us with a wealth of invaluable data about the Earth, its climate and changing environment. Despite the loss of the CryoSat mission in October last year, the Earth Explorer missions are still on track to help satisfy our quest for knowledge about the Earth. In addition to this research component, the Living Planet Programme incorporates an Earth Watch element designed to facilitate the delivery of data for use in operational services - such as meteorological missions and new missions focusing on the environment and civil security under GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security).

Although the framework for the new Living Planet strategy addresses the scientific challenges through the areas of oceans, atmosphere, land surfaces, cryosphere and the Earth interior, it is apparent that none of these areas can be dealt with in isolation. None of the major Earth science disciplines, when studied at global scales and over different timescales, can be separated from other disciplines. Real understanding of the Earth system must come from connecting different processes. In addition, understanding and monitoring the impact that nature and human activity are having on the Earth system is vital if we are to ever correctly predict the effect of a changing climate.

The workshop will be a cornerstone in the evolution of what is already a successful programme, and will help in consolidating the strategy. It shall assure that the future of observing the Earth from space is as meaningful and useful as possible, providing the answers to the many questions we have about our environment.

For more information about attending the workshop please see:
www.congrex.nl/06C20

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