The "Earth Watching Team" at the European Space Agency's ESRIN centre in Italy has put some significant satellite images on the Internet concerning the recent floods in northern Europe.
These are accessible at the following address:
Acquisitions over areas of Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria from July 12 onwards give an idea of the extent of the catastrophe that has hit a large part of northern Europe these last few weeks. Topographic maps of the areas, merged with the available satellite data, are also accessible.
During emergencies of this kind, it is often difficult to obtain an overall view of the areas hit, especially since weather conditions are usually such as to preclude, for example, aerial observation. The authorities need a quick response in order to identify areas that need immediate assistance. ESA's ERS Earth Observation satellites carry a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instrument, which is able to collect data independently of weather and light conditions, but it is also possible to acquire data with optical satellites when cloud cover is reasonably light.
Readily processed data and information can be made available to authorities just a few hours after the satellite has flown over the disaster area.
The Earth Watching project was started at the end of 1993 to monitor such emergencies, and is a collaborative effort between Eurimage (ESA's commercial distributor of remote sensing data) and ESRIN, the ESA centre in charge of exploiting Earth Observation data.
Putting remote-sensing data online is part of a promotional activity for the Earth Watching project to make authorities and institutions aware of the potentialities of such data. Note to editors:
ESA is coordinating the provision of data for the Polish and Czech Republic authorities, working with DLR (the German Aerospace Research Establishment) and one of the four ESA Processing and Archiving Centres for ERS data. DLR also maintains a server with recent ERS data covering the flooded areas (http://www.dfd.dlr.de/app/index.html).
The Earth Watching Team at the ESA/ESRIN centre in Frascati (near Rome), Italy, can be reached via the ERS Helpdesk, tel: 0039-6-941 80 666, fax: 0039-6-941 80 862.