Category: Earth Observation & Climate Data

INNOVATE4CLIMATE (I4C): Key Takeaways from “Earth Observation and the Future of Climate Resilience”

INNOVATE4CLIMATE (I4C): Key Takeaways from “Earth Observation and the Future of Climate Resilience”

Key takeaways:

  • Earth observation data are helping to transform climate resilience planning and implementation, creating new opportunities to help direct and maximise the impact of climate resilience investments.
  • To be successful, the right technical infrastructure and human capacities need to be in place, and stakeholders should be intimately involved in co-developing solutions.
  • Key challenges range from developing tailored products and services that are highly optimised to particular types of decision and improving the accessibility of socio-economic and land use data, to assuring quality and boosting information equity.

In late July, the Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) Climate Resilience cluster coordinated a panel discussion, hosted by Innovate4Climate, addressed to the question of earth observation (EO) and the future of climate resilience.

The panel convened five distinguished representatives from the provider and user sides, including the European Space Agency (ESA), the World Bank, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), African Risk Capacity (ARC), and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). Each organisation is at the cutting edge of either developing innovative EO-powered products and services or leveraging such services to boost climate resilience outcomes around the world.

The panel had three objectives. First, to take stock of the current ‘state-of-the-art’ regarding the use of EO-derived information in climate resilience applications. Second, to draw-out key gaps in provision of EO-driven services. Third, to unpack what progress in development of new EO services can feasibly be expected in the medium term and outline key demand-side requirements.

On a voyage from data to decisions 

Anna Burzykowska, Technical Officer at ESA, opened the panel with a summary of ESA’s ambitious climate programme, an element of one of the most ambitious earth observation programmes ever initiated, and which seeks to make consistent, high-quality climate data available global users as a public good. The Climate Change Initiative is the flagship of this programme, generating a broad portfolio of EO-driven Essential Climate Variables spanning the world.

Recognising that technical, human and other barriers can obstruct the actionable deployment of such data, today ESA’s ambition is evolving to address these barriers is ever more action-oriented, aiming to “bridge the gap between climate science and provide information that can be used by decision makers in their climate resilience strategies”. In the end, overlooking key entry points for EO data in particular decision scenarios and failing to develop climate information tailored to such decisions will lead to missed opportunities in being able to use EO data to improve climate resilience outcomes.

Creating decision-relevant information means collaboration

Identifying these applications and entry points is, however, challenging. Organisations such as the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) are invariably large and complex, with multiple teams, hundreds if not thousands of staff, and many more projects and beneficiaries. On the provider side, this requires becoming acquainted with the nature of evidence required to inform certain decisions, and on the user side it can mean learning about the potentialities of EO data and technologies, and being flexible and innovative in deploying these in real decision scenarios. In this vein, Anna Burzykowska articulated a recurring theme during the panel: the importance of collaborative working. As Anna noted, “We believe that climate action means different communities coming together, and that means building partnerships between actors that are not used to working together on a daily basis”.

The Panel heard how projects such as the EO4SD Climate Resilience programme seek to make climate resilience challenges more soluble by working directly with IFIs to mainstream EO climate information into projects and corporate tools. Achieving this requires a three-pronged approach: to raise demand-side awareness of what is possible using EO climate data; to co-develop bespoke technical solutions that leverage quality global data to meet climate resilience challenges at organisational and programmatic levels; to build demand-side capacity so that IFIs and their beneficiaries can derive maximum benefit from EO services throughout the project cycle.

An essential aspect of this is the quality of the data and services rendered. Samantha Burgess, of C3S, stressed the importance of rich, credible, and quality-assured data. In this regard, the C3S is able to leverage a rich array of earth observation, seasonal forecast, climate projection and other climate data to assist countries and companies “understand their risk envelopes and plan accordingly”.

Towards a global streamflow forecast: One aim, four challenges 

In a similar vein, Angelica Guttierez spoke to the example of a new global streamflow forecast service, developed by GEOGLOWS, that aims to transform climate data into actionable information, especially in areas where little or no such information exists. Realising this aim required overcoming four challenges. First, to leverage the considerable computing power and expertise needed to process big data and make it easily accessible online. Second, to improve access to web services to enable users to access data and easily create derived visualisations, such as flood maps. Third, to ensure adoption and stakeholder buy-in of the GEOGLOWS service by working collaboratively with multiple stakeholders to understand needs and co-develop solutions. And fourth, to assure users of the quality and reliability of the product as a resource that can inform decisions, through validation, bias correction, and incremental improvement.

EO data is indispensable and contributing to radical change climate resilience action 

Panellists touched on many of the benefits of EO-driven applications that have emerged through such collaboration. Ana Bucher noted how the World Bank has been working with ESA in this spirit collaboration since 2008 and translating EO data from satellites and bringing it to bear on the Bank’s global project portfolio. With its potential to scale insight and interventions, support better planning, and inform the prioritisation of climate risks and resilience actions, Ana was clear in its benefits: “How the value of earth observation can be brought into these daily actions is immense, in terms of economic returns, saving lives, but also in how it helps us commit to climate goals”.

These benefits are particularly strong in areas of the world where the World Bank has a large project portfolio, notably regions where climate data records can be sparse and of low quality. This was echoed by Francois Kayitakire, Director of Research and Development at ARC, an organisation that has for many years used EO-derived rainfall estimates for the African continent in models parametric insurance models for drought, and in future, flood, cyclones, and epidemics. “Without earth observation”, Francois explained, “it is impossible to offer the services we offer today”. These data – that have the essential attributed of being both highly predictable and reliable – have had concrete impacts on drought-affected areas, having triggered dispersals amounting to $60 million since 2015.

Ana Bucher further added that EO data have particular potential to observe and monitor the ‘silent risks’ that can be harder to track (e.g. drought), socio-economic change (e.g. settlement shifts), and the impacts of both climate change and climate resilience investments themselves. For the Bank, the bottom line is that EO spanning these areas another others can markedly improve the way IFIs structure and deliver their portfolio and support climate resilient development.

Where next? Information equality, pertinence, and confidence 

An important aspect of the GEOGLOWS mission is to improve equality of access to information; an ambition supported by other panellists also. As Angelica Guttierez noted, “If we want global issues to be addressed by the global community, then we need to level the playing field so every nation has the opportunity to access information”. Part of this means strengthening foundational technical infrastructure (e.g. internet connectivity) and human capacities to increase the ‘bandwidth’ to be able to derive maximum benefit from emerging cloud-based EO services.

On the data side, ARC is developing new services that leverage EO, such as the Extreme Climate Facility (ECF). The ECF a resilience financing instrument geared toward financing adaptation interventions over a 5 to 10 year horizon, requiring strong seasonal-to-decadal climate prediction data. Decision-relevant climate information also means attending to the specific climate sensitivities of different sectors. As data and understanding improve, demand for sector-tailored, threshold-based climate information will continue to increase on the user side.

Analysing climate risks and planning climate resilience requires EO data far beyond climate data itself. Panellists identified other types of EO data that would also markedly improve understanding of climate risk, particularly regarding the characteristics of exposed assets (e.g. urban areas and croplands). Linking such data with timely inundation maps would help to improve analysis of flood impacts, enabling relief funds to be better targeted in the short term, and resilience measures be better planned in the long-term.

Critically, such decision-useful information must also have the confidence of users. Even as EO providers already invest significantly in validation, quality assurance, and traceability, ESA has recognised that the consistency and visibility of quality assurance is an area that still needs to be addressed. As such, ESA has recently begun investigating users can be better informed about how products were developed (and the quality of those products). This, coupled with continuous improvements in tailored EO services, will help ensure that users are able to exploit EO services confidently and effectively to build climate resilience into the future.

This article was originally posted on the EO4SD website.

Acclimatise CEO to moderate an EO4SD-led panel discussion as part of the World Bank’s Innovate4Climate virtual conference

Acclimatise CEO to moderate an EO4SD-led panel discussion as part of the World Bank’s Innovate4Climate virtual conference

On 29th July at 10:00 EDT, Acclimatise CEO John Firth will be moderating an EO4SD-led panel discussion as part of the World Bank’s Innovate4Climate virtual conference. This will take stock of the use of Earth Observation (EO) data in climate resilience, and look to the future in regards to what development practitioners will find useful next in terms of EO products and services.

Objectives include:

  • Introduce and encourage the use of earth observation (EO) products and services for the purposes of building climate resilience, particularly in a development setting
  • Catalyse the innovative deployment EO products and services across the project life cycle and across a range of decision-making contexts, from finance mobilisation to monitoring and evaluation
  • Enable our audience to learn about cost-effective EO climate data and platforms, and how these can be accessed and used.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Samantha Burgess (Copernicus Climate Change Service)
  • Francois Kayitakire (African Risk Capacity)
  • Ana Bucher (World Bank Group)

Register for the webinar here.

WMO expresses concern as impacts of COVID-19 reduce earth observation measurements by 80% in some areas

WMO expresses concern as impacts of COVID-19 reduce earth observation measurements by 80% in some areas

By Álvaro Linares

In an article released on 9 April 2020, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) expressed its concerns on the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the Earth Observing System, which has major implications on weather observations and forecasts, as well as on the monitoring of atmospheric processes and climate change.

On the positive side, a significant portion of the WMO’s global observing system is either partly or fully automated. For instance, space-based observations and many ground-based observing networks are highly automated and are not expected to be impacted by the effects of the pandemic. Currently, there are 30 meteorological and 200 research satellites, continuously providing observations, and in most developed countries, surface-based weather observations are nearly fully automated. 

However, the WMO article explains that some parts of the global observing system have already been severely affected. The most significant reduction in weather measurements corresponds to in-flight measurements of temperature, wind speed and wind direction, and in some cases, humidity and turbulence – all important variables for both weather prediction and climate monitoring. Commercial airlines are part of the WMO Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay programme (AMDAR) gathering over 800,000 observations per day. Due to the flight restrictions set by countries on commercial flights, many parts of the world have seen a decrease in measurements between 50% and 80% over the past two weeks.

Beyond the immediate decrease of in-flight observations caused by the pandemic, there are also concerns that if the pandemic persists for several weeks, maintenance and supply work, as well as scheduled redeployments will be affected.

In many developing countries, ground-based observations have been affected by the pandemic due to their reliance on manual reporting by weather observers. The WMO article points out that the WMO’s global observation system has seen a significant decrease in the availability of this type of manual observations over the last two weeks. Some of this may be attributable to the current coronavirus situation, but it is not yet clear whether other factors may play a role as well. WMO is currently investigating this. Lars Peter Riishojgaard, Director, Earth System Branch in WMO’s Infrastructure Department said: “At the present time, the adverse impact of the loss of observations on the quality of weather forecast products is still expected to be relatively modest. However, as the decrease in availability of aircraft weather observations continues and expands, we may expect a gradual decrease in reliability of the forecasts”.

“The same is true if the decrease in surface-based weather observations continues, in particular if the COVID-19 outbreak starts to more widely impact the ability of observers to do their job in large parts of the developing world. WMO will continue to monitor the situation, and the organization is working with its Members to mitigate the impact as much as possible,” he said.

To partially mitigate the impact of the sudden decrease in observations, some WMO members ,such as Europe, have increased the launches of radiosondes. These radiosondes are attached to weather balloons, which can fly from the surface up to 20 to 30 km into the atmosphere, transmitting measurements of some critical meteorological variables.

These additional WMO efforts are critical for monitoring climate change. COVID-19 has caused positive short-term environmental impacts such as a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and a worldwide increase in air quality. Capturing these impacts with high-quality observations, thanks to the mitigation efforts of the WMO, can help shed light on the advantages that a systemic shift to a more sustainable economy can have on climate change and the planet.

Cover photo from Wikimedia Commons.
The benefits of the Spatial Data Analysis Explorer for project officers

The benefits of the Spatial Data Analysis Explorer for project officers

In 2018, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) launched the Spatial Data Analysis Explorer (SPADE), an interactive cloud-based platform that can host geospatial information.

​A collaboration with the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department and operations departments, SPADE could be an essential tool for ADB staff and consultants for project identification and preparation, due diligence, engineering design, and project monitoring.  

​The platform uses open-source technology, so the information is easily accessible to registered users and can also accept new or updated data. Currently, SPADE has spatial information for 21 project cities.  

​UCCRTF, who manages the platform, has been stepping up efforts to promote the use of SPADE and increase its content. In December 2019, they hosted a training workshop for ADB staff to provide an overview of geographic information systems (GIS), available tools and platforms, and its application for various stages in the ADB project cycle. The training highlighted the need for stronger user uptake and skill transfer of these spatial tools within ADB.  

​SPADE offers several advantages for project officers and those working at the city level. First, it can be used as a tool to inform strategic decisions on project design and investment prioritization. For example, SPADE has a mobile app version and this was used to collect data on rain- and flood-induced landslide hazards for a community-led project in La Trinidad, Philippines. Hazard maps were then produced from these data to improve the design of the project. 

​Second, SPADE can be used to conduct due diligence, project implementation, and monitoring. Consultants, for instance, can take photos and notes of the construction site during a field visit and upload these to SPADE using their mobile phone. Photos are geotagged to show the precise locations on the platform’s map. This allows project officers to view the progress on site from their desks at the resident mission or in ADB headquarters.

​For more on the other benefits of SPADE, view the infographic below or download it here

This article was originally published on the Asian Development Bank’s Livable Cities Blog.
Cover image from wikimediacommons.
The under-appreciated influence of the tropics on the ‘jet stream’

The under-appreciated influence of the tropics on the ‘jet stream’

By Prof Tim Woollings

Over the past decade or so, a scientific debate has emerged around whether rapid Arctic warming could be affecting extreme weather in the mid-latitudes. Much of this work focuses on the jet stream – the narrow current of strong winds encircling the globe around 40-50 degrees North.

The science is far from settled. The jet stream can vary wildly from week to week, or from year to year, and questions remain over whether any signal from the Arctic can yet be seen over the background “noise” of natural variability. (The latest study on the topic, for example, suggests the link is “insignificant”.)

The current winter provides an interesting, if trivial, example. In the Arctic, the steady decline of sea ice continues, with the January 2020 average extent among the lowest 10 years in the satellite record. According to some of the most widely reported theories, we might expect the jet to have been weaker and more “wavy” this winter as a result. But the reality is quite the opposite. So far this season, the jet has mostly been strong and straight, bringing mild and stormy weather to much of northern Europe.

Of course, lots of this is just ‘weather’ – we expect a certain randomness in the jet stream – and this is a key reason why influences, such as Arctic warming, are so hard to pin down. But, intriguingly, the jet this winter seems to have been highly predictable, with early warnings of such a pattern first being made in the autumn. 

We cannot say for certain what has caused this yet, but most meteorological eyes are directed away from the Arctic, towards the south. And, in fact, there is possibly an even more important influence on our weather under a changing climate: the tropics.


Ultimately, the jet stream derives its energy from the contrast in temperatures between the warm air over the equator and the cold conditions of the Arctic. And is it intimately tied to conditions in the tropics. 

Blessed with a surplus of energy pouring in from the sun, the tropics are in many ways the powerhouse of the Earth’s climate. Somewhere near the equator, depending on season, the surface will face directly towards the sun and so the air here will be heated more than anywhere else, becoming lighter and rising upwards as a result. This forms a giant convection cell in the atmosphere, known as the Hadley cell, with air rising above the equator before moving away, to both the north and south, and then sinking again.

Global circulation of Earth's atmosphere displaying Hadley cell, Ferrell cell and polar cell. Credit: Kaidor, published under CC BY-SA 3.0
Global circulation of Earth’s atmosphere displaying Hadley cell, Ferrell cell and polar cell. Credit: Kaidor, published under CC BY-SA 3.0

George Hadley was a London lawyer, pondering science questions in his spare time, when he hit upon the basic mechanism explaining the “trade winds”. These are the year-round east-to-west winds that blow across the tropics, on which traders sailing across the Atlantic relied for a swift passage to the Americas. Hadley described the theory in his seminal paper, published by the Royal Society in 1735.

Hadley, G. (1735) VI. Concerning the cause of the general trade-winds, Philosophical Transactions, doi:10.1098/rstl.1735.0014
Hadley, G. (1735) VI. Concerning the cause of the general trade-winds, Philosophical Transactions, doi:10.1098/rstl.1735.0014

Hadley first theorised the existence of the cell which now bears his name and also that the near-surface air moving towards the equator would be turned by the rotation of the Earth, forming the trade winds. He also predicted that, on the flip side of his cell, there should be strong winds blowing from west to east far above the surface, which he named the “anti-trades”. Today, of course, we call this the jet stream.

(Cartoons of the atmosphere typically feature two jets, one linked to the Hadley cell and one further north linked to a much weaker feature called the polar cell. Although this picture is useful, the two jets are, in reality, often merged into one dominant structure in the mid-latitudes, simply referred to as the jet stream.)

Tropical changes

While scientists are still pondering how variations in the Arctic may affect the jet, the influence of the tropics is abundantly clear. 

We need look no further than the dramatic weather disruption caused by El Niño events in the Pacific Ocean, when the balance between the tropical trade winds and the warm equatorial ocean currents is upset. By shifting the locations of the powerful convection driving the Hadley cell, these events send “waves” along the jet stream that can temporarily alter weather patterns around much of the world.

El Niño is a naturally-occuring phenomenon affecting weather and climate worldwide.

Normally, trade winds blow strongly from east to west in the tropical Pacific. During an El Niño, the trade winds relax, cutting off the supply of cool water to the sea surface.
Infographic: What is El Nino? Credit: Tom Prater and Rosamund Pearce/Carbon Brief.

El Niño is the poster-child of climate variability, responsible for much of the skill in our long-range “seasonal” forecasts, which aim to predict average conditions for the season ahead. But there is more to the tropics than just El Niño. The tropical atmosphere is much less stable than that over the Arctic, enabling powerful storm systems to reach up and shunt around air masses up at the heights where the jet is strongest.

For example, it seems likely that weather patterns in the tropics have helped to nudge the jet into its strong and straight configuration this winter, and it is this signal which enabled early warnings for Europe in the autumn of 2019. Specifically, this year’s events are quite consistent with some previous studies of the influence of Indian Ocean weather patterns on the jet stream. 

And what about climate change? Might we be seeing changes in the jet stream already because of how the tropics are responding to warming? 

The tropics are indeed changing, although there is more uncertainty over how exactly than there is in the Arctic. For example, George Hadley’s great circulation cell has been expanding over recent decades, its boundaries inching slightly, but detectably, polewards. 

While this is exactly the signal we expect to arise from climate change, our best assessment is currently that much of the recent changes reflect natural variations, at least in the northern hemisphere. (In the southern hemisphere, the climate change signal is clearer, especially as it is boosted by the effects of stratospheric ozone depletion.)

Ocean heat

The tropical oceans are, of course, warming, along with most oceans around the world. However, here again there is uncertainty over exactly how. 

Climate models generally predict the tropical Pacific will warm most strongly in the east, close to South America, while the observed trends show strongest warming instead in the west. Given the sensitivity to these regions evidenced by El Niño, this discrepancy has serious implications for our ability to predict the details of changing weather patterns. 

Surface temperature anomalies for 2019 from Berkeley Earth, using a 1951-80 baseline.
Surface temperature anomalies for 2019 from Berkeley Earth, using a 1951-80 baseline.

Some new evidence suggests that the observed pattern of stronger western warming might be a signature of climate change, regardless of what the models say. Given the extent to which the details really matter in the tropical Pacific, however, uncertainty is likely to remain here for some time.

Keeping this uncertainty in mind, though, has the warming of the tropical oceans had any effect on the jet stream yet? 

Some of our recent work suggests, potentially, yes. El Niño peaks in the northern hemisphere winter – it was originally named after the infant Jesus by Peruvian fishermen – but it also has important impacts in summer by sending giant, continent-sized waves along the jet stream. 

For example, a series of extreme weather events rocked Eurasia in 2010, from the searing Russian heatwave to the torrential Pakistan floods, and it seems the climate dice were loaded for these events by La Niña, the so-called “little sister” to El Niño.

Crucially, the pathway for these influences seems to have shifted and strengthened in recent decades, due to a subtle shift of the jet, so that El Niño and La Niña now affect parts of Eurasia in summer that they did not reach before. This is associated with a subtle southward shift of the jet over southeast Asia, which makes it more sensitive to weather disturbances from over the Pacific.

We have been able to reproduce this change in climate model experiments but – importantly – this occurs only when the observed warming of the tropical oceans and the subsequent influence on the jet is included.

It is early days for this type of research, and many uncertainties remain, but we might just be starting to see an example of how the tropics will affect jet stream variability under climate change. 

In any case, both Hadley’s circulation cell and El Niño’s shockwaves demonstrate the power of the tropics over the jet stream. As weather patterns alter in our warming world, those of us in the northern mid-latitudes should be looking nervously to the south at least as much as to the north.

This article was originally posted on The Carbon Brief under CC licensing.
Cover photo by NASA Johnson on Flickr.
New paper explores open Earth observations for sustainable urban development

New paper explores open Earth observations for sustainable urban development

A new discussion paper prepared by AidData and the Group on Earth Observations explores the role of open Earth observations for sustainable urban development.

Prepared for UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum in United Arab Emirates, this paper concentrates on examples where Earth observation (EO) data can complement or enhance traditional data sources for cities and urban areas.

According to the United Nations, nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Ensuring sustainable urban development will be key for urban planning, land management and the timely achievement of the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda.

Download your copy of the discussion paper here.

For general inquiries or questions related to the paper please contact: Mihir Prakash (

For activities of GEO: Steven Ramage (

For questions about GeoQuery: Seth Goodman (

Cover photo of Satellite imagery of Subarnarekha river delta and beach ridges by NASA via WikimediaCommons.
Phase two is underway for the EO4SD CR Cluster

Phase two is underway for the EO4SD CR Cluster

The EO4SD Climate Resilience (CR) Cluster has embarked upon phase two of their mission to help countries around the world increase their climate resilience by using EO data. In collaboration with several International Financial Institutions (IFIs), the cluster has developed EO-based integrated climate screening and risk management products and services to help manage climate-related risks and capitalise on the opportunities that climate resilience can create. The cluster is also working to build the capacity of IFI staff and IFI client states, allowing stakeholders to autonomously use EO-based information for climate resilience decision making.

Part one’s scoping phase, identified the potential areas for EO data to increase climate resilience and set about designing systems that would enable this to inform decision making. Phase two will see further refinement of the tools and training and capacity building for staff in using the information generated from the tools. For example, in the Philippines, the pilot project used satellite-based, highly automated, open water surface inundation tools to detect both seasonal fluctuation of water bodies and long-term changes. This Inundation Monitoring Service (IMS) maps the extent of flooded areas over time, which can help build a picture of the flood response of an area. As the pilot has worked so well, the EO4SD CR cluster will work with the ADB over the next 12 months to identify more sites where the IMS can be implemented.

The Cluster has also worked with the World Bank in a pilot phase to seamlessly integrate high-resolution, global observed datasets for three climate-related variables into the World Bank’s Climate Change Knowledge Portal (CCKP), which is one of the most high-profile, publicly accessible, climate data platforms in the world. Data was chosen specifically to add depth to the portal’s observational data offer, enhancing the accessibility of reliable data whilst making sure to cater for different user skill levels. Phase two will develop new visualisations of the EO data accessible via the CCKP, and develop country-specific EO-based and climate projection data to inform sectoral risk assessment on the CCKP (including energy, water, agricultural, and health).

Data was also successfully integrated into the pre-existing platforms with International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), as well as Africa RiskView (ARV) in conjunction with African Risk Capacity (ARC). For ARV, the Cluster combined Earth Observation (EO) data with population vulnerability data to provide an early-warning model that measures food insecurity and estimates response costs, enabling decision-makers to plan and respond quickly and efficiently to drought stresses. In addition, access has been given to products available through the EO4SD Cluster’s own platform that can deliver precipitation, soil moisture, and sea surface temperature data which is being used to test the possibilities for integrating other products into the ARV. Based on this initial engagement and testing, the next steps are to further integrate EO data into the ARV tool, and refine the types of information it is able to provide. Similarly, the Cluster worked with International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) to integrate EO data into its risk screening tool, upgrading their ability to assess the materiality of climate impacts, past and future. Phase two work includes integrating more EO data into their screening tool, with the timeline and resolution of data enabling a more detailed analysis.

The Cluster has also helped AGRHYMET’s ability to have a comprehensive view of climate risk as a function of hazard, exposure and vulnerability by identifying several products and services that can be provided in support of its work. Combining EO data, climate projection derived information and socioeconomic data, AGRHMET can improve its understanding of factors affecting Sahelian food security, desertification control, and water control and management. As a result, the wetlands monitoring service was chosen as a pilot and has been implemented in a region in Mali with a temporal range of 2017 to 2018. This pilot successfully demonstrated that the product could be applied in practice and usefully deliver relevant information. Over the course of the next 12 months the Cluster will further refine the prototype products and identify other projects for which they might be usefully applied. The Cluster will work with AGRHYMET to implement a service that provides full coverage of a pilot area, covering some 3,800 km2 of the Inner Niger Delta wetlands at a resolution of 20 km2. This service will enable monthly monitoring of surface wetness and water bodies integrating observed and projected rainfall data as well as a Water and Wetness Probability Index (WWPI), which will further enable comparing monthly means with observed measurements.

In Greater Monrovia, EO data will be used to analyse the exposure of critical infrastructure to coastal hazards. This includes generating analysis and projections of coastal shoreline change, rates of coastal erosion, and land subsidence. By combining this analysis with other EO data (for example, Modified Normalized Difference Water Index, Digital Terrain Models, and bathymetry data), climate projections, and socio-economic data, the cluster will also develop analysis on the population exposure to coastal flooding. The World Bank are also working with the Cluster in supporting the Monrovia Integrated Development Project (MIDP) by understanding the region’s urban growth, and how, in conjunction with the shoreline analysis, other socioeconomic factors might contribute to climate vulnerability. The next phase is to integrate more EO data to better identify risks and estimate projected coastal erosion, vital for informing resilient interventions by stakeholders.

Critical infrastructures and settlements likely to be flooded due to coastal flooding in West Point and Clara Town (Greater Monrovia, Liberia).

A vital part of phase two is to provide capacity building activities in order to increase the effectiveness of climate and disaster risk management. In order to do this, the Cluster will be helping partners by increasing the capacity of their staff to be able to provide better services and tools to local stakeholders (such as governmental bodies and other organisations with overlapping objectives). Capacity building activities will initially focus on the EO4SD CR platform, providing to staff training on how to access and test EO derived data. By showcasing examples of how EO derived information relates to daily operations, staff will understand how EO data can be used for assessment and awareness activities. These will be delivered via a series of introductory webinars and regional events, before curating dedicated webinars and ‘on demand’ webinars, acting as a helpdesk to the various stakeholders. For example, in the Philippines, specific capacity building options may include how EO services can feed into nature-based flood protection solutions by identifying suitable locations, and using real-time EO data to monitor rivers to strengthen early flood warning systems.

This article was originally published on the EO4SD CR website.
Cover image by USGS on Unsplash.
2019 picks from the Acclimatise article archive – Data and Analytics

2019 picks from the Acclimatise article archive – Data and Analytics

Our third article of top picks from our 2019 article archive, features six articles related to climate data and analytics. As poor populations living in developing countries face frequent extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, they are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the threat of global climate change. Emerging climate data and analytics services help in exposing these climate risks and vulnerabilities before disaster strikes, whilst providing methods of applying these data to real-world decision-making.

While demand for climate projections are growing, alternative methods of contributing to our understanding of how to build resilience to climate impacts are presenting themselves.  Citizen science has emerged as a useful tool for raising awareness, bridging data and capacity gaps and influencing governments through actively engaging civil society in research and monitoring.

Acclimatise remains at the forefront of providing effective climate analytics services. In fact, our analytics software division is creating some of the first user-centric climate change risk assessment applications, running on some of the world’s most sophisticated datasets. For example, platforms such as our Aware platform is being used by Multilateral Development Banks include the Asian Development Bank and the European Investment Bank to screen their project and investments for climate risks.

Beyond climate models: Climate adaptation in the face of uncertainty

By Erin Owain and Richard Bater

In recent years, demand has been placed on climate science by policy makers to produce increasingly high-resolution climate projections to inform shorter-term, local decisions. The authors of a recently published paper argue that this is partly attributable to an over-estimation, on the part of decision makers, of the level precision with which the current set of models are able to project future change.

Read the full article here.

People Power: How citizen science is building climate resilience in South Asia

By Uma Pal   

While diverse and extensive ecosystems, climates and socio-economic features in South Asia make it a challenge to collect adequate data and conduct research on the impacts of climate change, citizen science can be a useful tool for enabling more comprehensive research and resilience building initiatives both at the individual level and at scale.

Read the full article here.

Using earth observation data in climate risk assessment for financial institutions

By Robin Hamaker-Taylor and Jennifer Steeves

Working with financial institutions to understand analyse and disclose physical climate risks and opportunities to loans, investments and across portfolios demands the application of the most up-to-date climate data and information. By deploying data from historic climate observations, modelled projections of future climate and various social, environmental and economic datasets it is possible to begin to build a picture of risk exposure to financial institutions. 

Read the full article here.

Resilience planning can uncover investment opportunities at the city level

By Will Bugler

Countries in Asia are faced with a huge infrastructure investment gap, primarily resulting from a lack of identifiable, bankable projects at the city level. To address this, cities are in need of support to develop robust, integrated, and climate-responsive infrastructure plans. Investing in a resilience approach to urban planning can support municipal governments to develop such plans and unlock a multitrillion-dollar investment opportunity.

Read the full article here.

Earth Observation data: the new frontier in climate resilience

By Acclimatise News

Earth observation is the gathering of information about the Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems and has the capability to do so across remote and inaccessible terrain. Providing large quantities of timely and accurate environmental information, EO data can help governments around the world prepare for climate change impacts and inform sustainable and climate resilient development planning to account for future climate risks.

Read the full article here.

This New Climate – Episode 3: OASIS & the democratisation of climate data

By Acclimatise News

In the third episode of This New Climate, host Will Bugler explores how the OASIS group of companies are seeking to transform our ability to understand climate risk through a commitment to open source data.

Listen to the podcast here.

Matching supply and demand: A typology of climate services

Matching supply and demand: A typology of climate services

A new framework for classifying and understanding types of current and potential climate data and information has been presented in a peer-reviewed journal article due to be published shortly (in press as of 8 January 2020). The framework put forth in the article can help professionals in the financial services, urban planning, and tourism sectors articulate their climate service preferences. It can also help identify challenges and opportunities for other climate service users and service providers. Due to be published in the journal Climate Services, the open-access article is titled ‘Matching supply and demand: A typology of climate services’. It is the result of research carried out in the EU’s Horizon 2020 EU-MACS project, where Acclimatise led the engagement with the financial services sector. 

The European Roadmap for Climate Services defines ‘climate service’ as “…the transformation of climate-related data — together with other relevant information — into customised products such as projections, forecasts, information, trends, economic analysis, assessments (including technology assessment), counselling on best practices, development and evaluation of solutions and any other service in relation to climate that may be of use for the society at large. As such, these services include data, information and knowledge that support adaptation, mitigation and disaster risk management (DRM)”. The European MArket for Climate Services (EU-MACS) project sought to understand and develop the climate services market in Europe and beyond. The climate service market is currently undergoing rapid expansion and has the potential to be a rewarding space for both users and providers.

The article, led by researchers from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, (Visscher and Stegmaier) indicates that although the climate services market is growing and consolidating, there has not yet been ‘extensive reflection on the kinds of services such a new market could encompass, and on the ways in which formats can be created that match supply and demand’ (pg. 1). Using a research approach based on Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA), the article provides this by elaborating and illustrating a typology of the current variety of climate services seen. Specifically, the article presents a typology of climate services, including: ‘Maps & Apps’, ‘Expert Analysis’, ‘Climate-inclusive Consulting’, and ‘Sharing Practices’ types (see figure 1).

Figure 1: A Typology of Climate Services (Visscher et al., in press 2020)

The typology provides a framework for the further development of climate services as it can be used by actual and potential providers of climate services to reflect upon the general outline of their services. In particular, the article goes some way to capture examples of climate service use cases and demand in the financial services, urban planning, and tourism sectors. These are also elaborated in more detail in the EU-MACS outputs. Additionally, policymakers can use the article to reflect upon the kind of services they want to stimulate through funding, procurement, or other measures. Supporting these services helps to professionalise climate services and to stimulate their uptake in complex and institutionalised settings (Visscher et al., in press 2020).

Acclimatise’s Robin Hamaker-Taylor, a co-author of the article stated: ‘This research is an important and innovative effort to outline the contours of the climate services market. As the climate impacts are increasingly felt, climate data is proving increasingly useful, especially by those in the financial services sector. Apart from providers and policymakers, the framework we set out and illustrate in this article can be a useful starting point for users such as financial services firms who would like to begin their climate data journey and peer into the wide world of climate services.’ 

Cover photo by NASA on Unsplash
Using Earth Observation data in climate risk assessment for financial institutions

Using Earth Observation data in climate risk assessment for financial institutions

By Robin Hamaker-Taylor and Jennifer Steeves

Working with financial institutions to understand analyse and disclose physical climate risks and opportunities to loans, investments and across portfolios demands the application of the most up-to-date climate data and information. By deploying data from historic climate observations, modelled projections of future climate and various social, environmental and economic datasets it is possible to begin to build a picture of risk exposure to financial institutions. In recent years, Acclimatise has also been working with new data sources such as Earth Observation (EO) data, which offer the potential to develop our understanding of real-time risk exposure, especially in areas where other data is sparse.

Acclimatise worked with leading programmes, such as the European Space Agency’s Earth Observation for Sustainable Development Climate Resilience (EO4SD CR) cluster, to demonstrate the potential of EO data to build climate resilience. The potential of EO data is enormous, and the developments in the temporal and spatial resolution of satellite data is a powerful tool of analysis. In recognition of this, Acclimatise this month became an Associate Member of Group on Earth Observations (GEO). The GEO is an intergovernmental partnership that improves the availability, access and use of EOs for a sustainable planet.

What is EO and EO data?

EO is the collection, analysis and presentation of information about the Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems and has the capability to do so across remote and inaccessible terrain. It involves monitoring and assessing the status of and changes in the natural and man-made environment. There are now thousands of data buoys operating in the world’s oceans, hundreds of thousands of land-based environmental monitoring stations, tens of thousands of observations from aircraft platforms and numerous environmental satellites orbiting the globe, according to GEOSS and other academic research.

EO satellites can collect real-time data on a wide range of indicators such as water distribution, land use, water cycles, atmospheric profiles, heat mapping, sea surface evaluations, and global-regional energy exchanges. EO data provide large quantities of timely and accurate environmental information, which, when combined with other datasets, can give unique insights into managing climate risks.

Of the 50 Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) essential climate variables, roughly half can only be observed from space, making EO an irreplaceable component of climate monitoring. EO datasets are critical in regions where insufficient information is available from weather stations (which is often the case), and its consistency facilitates coordination of information sharing. It is also very useful where on-the-ground assessments of infrastructure are not possible, for example, due to safety concerns.

Why is EO data useful for financial institutions?

Financial institutions (FIs) are accustomed to integrating data from various sources into their risk screening processes. As FIs become increasingly aware of the need to consider physical climate risks in their assessments, EO data offers enormous potential. FIs often lend or invest in diverse geographies with varying levels of available climate hazard data.

EO datasets can complement data held by FIs on their borrowers or investments including data on physical assets, on-site operations, supply chains, markets and logistics. High-quality data on climate parameters combined with other critical investment-relevant information helps investors and asset managers understand current and future risks to their investments across sectors. EO data is often used for post-disaster damage assessment. EO data can also be integrated into existing tools platforms and analyses used by FIs.

Evidence from current uses of EO data by financial institutions

To date, EO data has been used in the context of climate risk primarily by development finance institutions (DFIs), which indicates how commercial FIs could eventually use this type of data. The EO4SD Climate Resilience Cluster provides EO-based products and services to DFIs that have investments in developing countries to support climate resilience. DFIs and other agencies supported through the project include the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), African Risk Capacity (ARC), Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

For example, the EO4SD project is collaborating with a World Bank urban development initiative in Greater Monrovia, Liberia to provide EO-based products and services. An example of this is a coastal erosion service involving 41km of shoreline evolution monitored through a 34-year satellite series, which has been acquired through analysis of satellite images from Landsat, Sentinel 2 and Worldview 3. The analysis estimates that the land loss area from 1984 to 2019 in the 50 km coastline of Greater Monrovia is 0.8 km2. This can be overlaid with data on population and critical infrastructure to aid investment planning.

Flood mapping is also benefiting from EO-based services as EO data provides consistent historical information on floods. The 34-year high-resolution sea-level rise data was also used to identify coastal and inland flood risk areas in parts of Monrovia. The model integrates sea level rise projections to 2030, mapped against a digital terrain model to identify high flood risk areas. These flood maps help the World Bank and local authorities identify the most effective flood management actions and enable better planning decisions to avoid unnecessary development in risky areas.

The direction of travel: What next for EO?

EO data can help banks and lenders around the world understand and prepare for climate change impacts, accounting for future climate risks and opportunities in investment and lending decisions. As EO data gets easier to extract and apply, its use in climate risk assessments will continue to unfold.

One exciting potential application of EO data is in the context of trend analysis where past events are correlated to experienced losses to help paint a picture of risk. There is also potential to develop statistical information using EO data for certain climate hazards such as flooding. Processed climate data will soon be available on flood return periods, for example, as will statistics on flood extent and flood duration. Acclimatise are now gearing up for phase 2 of the EO4SD project, which will build the capacity of DFIs and partner agencies in the practical application of EO data.

Stay in touch with how this project unfolds and how we are using EO to build climate resilience here.