ESA’s Medspiration project branches out to support biodiversity

Heat map around Galapagos and Cocos Island
19 March 2007

Maps of the sea surface temperature around Galapagos Islands and Cocos Island in the Pacific Ocean are being produced daily and are available online in full resolution in near-real time as part of the Medspiration project, an ESA-funded effort to represent the most reliable temperature of the seas on a global basis.

Galapagos Islands and Cocos Island have been integrated into Medspiration until 31 March in order to support the study of wildlife migration processes from the two islands as part of ESA’s new Diversity project, which kicked off in January 2007 to support the initiative of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) to reduce significantly the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

The sea surface temperature (SST) map around Galapagos Islands and Cocos Island is one of the various Earth observation-based Diversity products ESA is developing to aid in the conservation and monitoring activities of the different actors involved in UNCBD in Central America – one of the main biodiversity reserves on our planet. Other services and products will include Mesoamerican biological corridor change detection maps, coral reef maps, ocean water quality monitoring services, mangrove maps as well as a map of dry lands.

Medspiration allows users to open very high-resolution maps, down to two square kilometres, anywhere in the world, as illustrated by the map of Galapagos Island. In addition to aiding conservation studies, Medspiration has been delivering SST data of European seas since 2004 to its partners with overall results from the project feeding into an even more ambitious scheme to combine all available SST data into a worldwide high-resolution product known as the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE) High-Resolution Sea Surface Temperature Pilot Project (GHRSST-PP).

Envisat - artist's impression
Envisat - artist's impression

GHRSST-PP aims to deliver to the user community a new generation of highly accurate worldwide SST products with a spatial resolution of less than 10 kilometres every six hours. To support this goal, in December 2005 Medspiration began processing data from the Advanced Along Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) aboard ESA's Envisat satellite for SST products requested by the overall oceanographic community, such as aerosol, wind and sea ice information.

In 2006, Medspiration products made significant quality enhancements, including two sq. km coverage of the north-east Atlantic, which also feed into the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) MarCoast initiative aimed at delivering a range of operational services in the marine environment including water quality and algal bloom reporting as well as oil-spill related services.

As well as Envisat, Medspiration utilises data from Meteosat-8, the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) polar orbiters, the Japanese’s Space Agency-NASA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and the AMSRE instrument onboard NASA's Aqua.

The Medspiration and Diversity projects are both supported through ESA's Data User Element (DUE) programme. As well as ESA, the Medspiration team comprises the Italian National Research Council (CNR), France’s Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS), the Southampton Oceanography Centre, the UK-based VEGA company, Meteo-France's Centre for Space Meteorology, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER), the France-based Actimar firm and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

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