Category: Earth Observation & Climate Data

NASA data shows sea level rise is accelerating

NASA data shows sea level rise is accelerating

By Katie Weeman, CIRES, and Patrick Lynch, NASA GSFC

Global sea level rise has been accelerating in recent decades, according to a new study based on 25 years of NASA and European satellite data. This acceleration has been driven mainly by increased ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica, and it has the potential to double the total sea level rise projected by 2100, according to lead author Steve Nerem, a scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and the University of Colorado.

If things continue to change at the observed pace, sea level will rise 65 centimeters (26 inches) by 2100, enough to cause significant problems for coastal cities. The team—comprised of scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Colorado, the University of South Florida, and Old Dominion University—recently published their work in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is almost certainly a conservative estimate,” said Nerem, who is a member of NASA’s Sea Level Change team. “Our extrapolation assumes that sea level continues to change in the future as it has over the last 25 years. Given the large changes we are seeing in the ice sheets today, that is not likely.”

Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere increase the temperature of air and water, which causes sea level to rise in two ways. First, warmer water expands, and this “thermal expansion” of the ocean has contributed about half of the 7 centimeters (2.8 inches) of global mean sea level rise that has been observed over the past 25 years, Nerem said. Second, the water from melting land ice flows into the ocean, which also increases sea level around the world.

The rate of sea level rise has risen from about 2.5 millimeters (0.1 inch) per year in the 1990s to about 3.4 millimeters (0.13 inches) per year today. These increases have been measured by satellite altimeters since 1992, including the TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, Jason-2, and Jason-3 missions, which have been jointly managed by NASA, France’s Centre national d’etudes spatiales (CNES), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The maps on this page depict the changes in sea level observed by those satellites between 1992 and 2014.

Source: NASA

“The TOPEX/Poseidon/Jason altimetry missions have been essentially providing the equivalent of a global network of nearly half a million accurate tide gauges, providing sea surface height information every 10 days for over 25 years,” said Brian Beckley of NASA Goddard. “As this climate data record approaches three decades, the fingerprints of Greenland and Antarctic land-based ice loss are now being revealed in the global and regional mean sea level estimates.”

Even with a 25-year data record, it can be challenging to detect acceleration. Episodes like volcanic eruptions can create variability; for instance, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 decreased global mean sea level just before the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite launch. In addition, global sea level can fluctuate due to climate patterns such as El Niño and La Niña, which influence ocean temperature and global precipitation patterns.

Nerem and the research team used climate models and other data sets to account for the volcanic effects and to determine the El Niño /La Niña effects, ultimately uncovering the underlying rate and acceleration of sea level rise. They also compared their results to tide gauges on Earth’s surface. “Tide gauge measurements are essential for determining the uncertainty in the global mean sea level acceleration estimate,” said co-author Gary Mitchum of the University of South Florida. “They provide the only assessments of the satellite instruments from the ground.”

In addition to making direct sea level observations from space, NASA has been conducting airborne and ship-based campaigns such as Operation IceBridge and Oceans Melting Greenland to gather measurements of ice sheets and glaciers. In 2018, NASA will launch two new satellite missions that will be critical to improving future sea level projections: the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, a partnership with GeoForschungsZentrum (Germany) and Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2).


NASA Scientific Visualization Studio images by Kel Elkins, using data from JASON-1, JASON-2, and TOPEX/Poseidon. Story by Katie Weeman, CIRES, and Patrick Lynch, NASA GSFC. Edited by Mike Carlowicz. Originally published on NASA Earth Observatory

Cover photo by NASA, download it in full size by clicking here.
Climate services: Old weather forecasting infrastructure in Africa poses risk to development

Climate services: Old weather forecasting infrastructure in Africa poses risk to development

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Weather forecasts don’t just inform what clothes you put on in the morning but influence much bigger and important decisions in, for example, agriculture and engineering. From small instruments like water gauges to complex forecasting systems that produce cyclone warnings, they are essential for preventing losses and protecting communities. The African continent has the world’s least developed weather, water, and climate (“hydromet”) observation network according to the World Bank. As such, development gains could be at risk from extreme weather and slow onset events, especially with the influence of climate change affecting global weather patterns.

Out of date weather stations

Less than 300 of Africa’s weather stations meet the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) observation standards. About 54 per cent of the continent’s surface weather stations, and 71 per cent of its upper-air weather stations, are out of date and do not deliver accurate data.

The cost of modernising African hydromet infrastructure runs very high at $1.5 billion. However, the benefits of the investment would offset it quickly. The World Bank estimates that updating the infrastructure could potentially save $13 billion in asset losses per year, as well as $22 billion in losses to well-being, and increase productivity leading to an additional $30 billion in savings.

Up until recently competing development needs led to a lack of resources for the hydromet infrastructure. Speaking to the Equal Times, Justus Kabyemera, coordinator of the Climate Development (ClimDev) Africa Special Fund at the African Development Bank (ADB) said “The main bottleneck is the lack of policy frameworks for hydromet services across the continent, which manifests itself into the lack of national budgetary allocations for the services.”

The results of this hydromet gap were discussed last year at the first African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) Africa Hydromet Forum. There, African leaders emphasised that weather and climate-related disasters were reversing development gains across the continent. Countries’ Gross Domestic Products can be reduced by 10-20 per cent due to such disasters, threatening their economic development.

Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa said “The increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters across Sub-Saharan Africa should serve as a wake-up call for governments and the international community to invest in hydromet services. Improving the accuracy of weather forecasts would not only save lives but also help African cities and communities build resilience against climate change.”

Improving the African hydromet infrastructure

Luckily, some African countries are already taking action. South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, and Morocco have started investing in the modernisation of their infrastructure. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, improved hydromet and early warning services are helping local communities better prepare for extreme weather events.

On a much larger scale, the Trans-African Hydrometeorological Observatory (TAHMO) project is aiming to build a dense network of 20,000 low-cost, high-tech weather stations across Africa, each 30 kilometres apart. The stations are being placed at schools and worked into their educational programmes to help raise awareness and foster the interest among students. All data produced by TAHMO stations shall be free and openly available to scientific research and the public sector. The project, thus, aims to not just focus on infrastructure alone, but takes a holistic approach that also has the potential to influence the social, economic, and political spheres.

New initiatives like these are being implemented all around the African continent. As climate change threatens development gains, the importance of hydromet information grows.

Cover photo by TAHMO Initiative/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0): Wanyange Girls Secondary School Wildlife Club in Uganda hosts a TAHMO weather station.
How to milk the coconut boom? Philippine farmers check their phones

How to milk the coconut boom? Philippine farmers check their phones

by Thin Lei Win

Generosa Gonato’s mobile phone beeped with a warning for the coconut farmer in the southern Philippines to be vigilant against bud rot, a common disease that is fatal for coconut trees. The message included the symptoms and how to treat it.

“So I monitored my trees and discovered some have it,” Gonato told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. She followed the advice – cutting down and destroying the affected trees quickly to stop the disease becoming an outbreak.

Gonato started receiving messages in October, telling her when and how to put down salt – a cheap way to boost coconut yields – how to spot pests, and how to better manage her finances.

The messages are part of FarmerLink, a pilot project set up by a consortium to make small-scale coconut farmers in the Philippines more resilient to shocks like natural disasters and pests, and increase their productivity.

Gonato, 57, has eked out a living farming coconuts with her husband for the past 40 years.

With a monthly income of $180 for a family of four, they borrow money regularly to make ends meet. But that is still a huge improvement from a decade ago, Gonato said.

She credits the rise in her income to soaring global demand for coconut, fuelled by the fruit’s use in an impressive array of food, household and industrial products – from shampoo and sports drinks, to synthetic rubber and construction materials.

Virgin coconut oil has also been marketed in some parts of the world as a “superfood” with health benefits.

As the world’s second largest producer of coconuts after Indonesia, the Philippines has made the most of this boom. In the month of February, coconut oil exports alone totalled $132.6 million, rising by two-thirds in a year.

FarmerLink, which covers Davao Province, one of the Philippines’ main coconut-growing regions, combines mobile technology with a more traditional method.

It sends out field workers armed with tablets who speak to farmers and register them in the system, geotagging their location so text messages are better targeted.

The project is led by the U.S.-based Grameen Foundation, which has worked on similar programmes in Uganda and Colombia, with a $250,000 grant from Michigan State University and $1 million from the Global Resilience Partnership, set up by The Rockefeller Foundation and the development arms of the U.S. and Swedish governments.

Poor despite billions

According to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), a state agency, coconut farms are present in 68 of the Southeast Asian nation’s 81 provinces, taking up a quarter of agricultural land.

There are 3.5 million smallholder coconut farmers and 23 million people – nearly a quarter of the population – depend on coconut for their livelihoods, according to the Grameen Foundation.

Sixty percent of small-scale coconut farmers live on or below the poverty line of 20,000 pesos (around $400) per year.

“The main problem we’re trying to solve is that coconut farmers are part of a multi-billion dollar industry, yet they’re one of the poorest segments within the Philippines’ agricultural sector,” said Ana Herrera, programme manager at Grameen.

“We’re trying to couple technology with practical, actionable information for the farmers, sent directly to their phones,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The FarmerLink consortium groups the PCA, the Grameen Foundation, the People’s Bank of Caraga and companies including Franklin Baker, one of the world’s largest suppliers of desiccated coconut products.

Managing such a diverse group is challenging but brings bigger benefits, Herrera said.

For example, business partners can endorse their farmer suppliers to the bank if they need to borrow money.

And the government has seen how fast things can progress by using technology, Herrera said. Previously farmers were registered manually using paper forms, which could take months.

Information scarcity

Coconut farmers tend to be poor due to low productivity, lack of direct access to markets, limited financial services and losses due to pests and diseases, said Herrera.

Many coconut trees in the Philippines were planted more than half a century ago, in some cases as early as the end of World War Two, experts say. As coconut trees produce peak yields when they are between 10 and 30 years old, many are now past their prime.

An average tree in the Philippines produces 45 coconuts a year, but according to agricultural data firm Gro Intelligence, the best-producing trees can yield 75 to 150 coconuts a year.

Many farmers are also unaware of, or cannot afford high-quality inputs that could raise yields, and lack the power to negotiate better prices with middlemen.

Compounding these challenges is the Philippines’ vulnerability to natural disasters. More than a million farmers were affected and 33 million coconut trees damaged when Typhoon Haiyan devastated the central Philippines in 2013.

The grant that helped to launch FarmerLink ends next month, but Herrera said consortium partners are looking for ways to continue the programme.

Meanwhile, the service is expanding to include automated voice messages, starting with tips on going organic.

Ravi Agarwal, founder and CEO of engageSPARK, a social enterprise whose platform is used by Grameen to contact farmers, said voice messages are more powerful than text.

“(Mobile technology) is very important because most of these people live in an environment of information scarcity,” said Agarwal, whose company has clients spanning some 100 countries.

“They may not know that if they add salt to the base of the tree, it will make their trees healthier… Information empowers them to get out of subsistence and escape poverty over time,” he added.

($1 = 49.9870 Philippine pesos)

Reporting by Thin Lei Win, Editing by Megan Rowling. Read the original article on

Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit

Please credit Zilient, an initiative of The Rockefeller Foundation, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Blue State Digital and OnFrontiers. All rights reserved.

Cover photo by Paul David Lewin/Flicker (CC BY 2.0).
New open-source data platform for climate resilience launches today

New open-source data platform for climate resilience launches today

By Will Bugler

A new data visualisation platform for climate resilience and adaptation practitioners launches today. The Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP), co-led by World Resources Institute and Future Earth, has developed a map-based platform, PREPdata, to provides easy access to the information that adaptation decision-makers need to assess vulnerability and build resilience to climate change. The PREPdata website is now live at

Acclimatise is a proud partner of the PREP initiative, which makes climate data more usable for people that need to consider climate change in their project, planning or investment decision-making.  On PREPdata, users can explore climate, physical and socioeconomic datasets and map them to visualize a the vulnerability of a specific region; track indicators most relevant to their work on customizable dashboards, and share their stories with adaptation professionals around the world.

PREPdata uses data from credible sources including NASA, NOAA, USGS and ESA allowing users to access and visualize spatial data reflecting past and future climate, as well as the physical and socioeconomic landscape for climate adaptation and resilience planning. The platform will continually evolve through the input of PREP partners and PREPdata users. PREPdata’s features include:

  1. A visual platform that is user-friendly and customisable to different contexts and skill levels;
  2. Active curation of datasets focused on climate resilience, streamlining the process of accessing and navigating to relevant data;
  3. Global coverage, with an emphasis on increasing access to datasets for the Global South, and support for applications across different scales and geographies; and
  4. A user-needs based strategy for platform development, using the knowledge and network of the partners and platform users to enable continuous improvement.

Widely applicable

The PREPdata platform has been developed with input from partners at city, state, and national scales, and from government, NGO and private sectors. For example, Sonoma County, California, has applied PREPdata to support its climate resilience planning, with a focus on changes that could affect the wine-growing and tourism-dependent region. In India, Acclimatise is involved in work using PREPdata to support climate adaptation plans in two Indian states – Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh – through the development of state-level dashboards to track indicators of climate hazard, vulnerability and adaptation. And, in Africa, PREP partners are exploring the use of PREPdata as a platform for regional-scale analysis of vulnerability to climate change.

Access the PREPdata portal here:

Read and share the PREPdata briefing note.

Learn more by signing up for PREP’s webinar.

Scientists improve methods to discern links between extreme weather events to climate change

Scientists improve methods to discern links between extreme weather events to climate change

By Gracie Pearsall

Increased frequency of extreme weather events is often cited as one of the principal effects of climate change. While it is difficult to attribute one specific heatwave, drought, or flood to climate change, scientists are improving old techniques and developing new methodologies to better discern when climate change influences extreme events. The rapidly evolving scientific field of weather attribution science and its growing body of scientific evidence are strengthening the link between climate change and extreme events.

Statistical Approach             

Within the field of weather attribution, several schools of thought exist on how scientists should analyse extreme events. Some scientists, such as Roger Pielke, Jr. of the University of Colorado Boulder, prefer to rely on statistics that show how the frequency of extreme events has changed as the climate has changed. One example of this type of analysis is the IPPC’s 2012 report on extreme weather events that analyses how the current frequency of extreme events compared to all the extreme events since 1950. This report found that there are far more days with extremely heat or heavy rainfall today, than there have been in the past.

Analysing Thermodynamics

Similarly, other scientists favour analysing the basic thermodynamics behind the link between climate change and extreme weather because thermodynamics is simpler than analysing weather dynamics, such as storm physics. From a thermodynamic angle, the relationship between climate change and extreme weather looks a lot like a chain reaction. First, climate change makes the air warmer and wetter (one degree Celsius of warming can allow for air to hold 7% percent more moisture). This change causes excess water in the clouds, and increases the likelihood of heavy rainfall and flooding. Because of the warmer air’s increased capacity to hold moisture, the air sucks up too much moisture from the ground.  The ground then dries out, increasing risk of wildfires, drought, and heatwaves.

Modelling and Rapid Attribution

One organization pioneering weather attribution science is the World Weather Attribution (WWA). This project, backed by Climate Central, aims to “accelerate the scientific community’s ability to analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme-weather events.” The WWA specializes in “rapid attribution” and its’ average turnaround time between an extreme event and a report is five days. The WWA wants to provide scientific evidence for the public debate that occurs immediately after extreme weather events, thus efficiency is of the utmost importance to this project.

The WWA employs an observation and model-based approach to weather attribution. The WWA starts by looking at observation-based data to define what the extreme weather event is, in order to inform how they analyse the event. Then, the researchers must collect more data on the event, often filling in the gaps with weather forecasts and satellite data. Then they use the collected data to model the unusual event and assess whether that event is becoming more common.

Each WWA weather event study uses several models to determine whether climate change played a role. Researches create a model of the real world and a model of a world without climate change, which they compare against each other. Then they run simulations on these models and determine the likelihood that an extreme event will occur, and how climate change influences this probability.

Despite the different approaches among weather attribution scientists, the consensus is that climate change is worsening and increasing the likelihood of certain extreme weather events. Increased confidence in event attribution is crucial for proving climate change does increase extreme whether events that pose immediate and devastating risks, that proof in turn can influence policy making and international climate negotiations.

Cover photo by Lane Pearman (CC BY 2.0): A supercell thunderstorm passes over the Beaumont Windfarm south of Beaumont, KS. This storm went on to produce a short-lived tornado west of Severy.
Data philanthropy will drive climate resilient development

Data philanthropy will drive climate resilient development


At a high-level side event at this year’s UN Climate Talks in Bonn, leaders from private sector data companies joined with United Nations representatives in a call for increased “data philanthropy” to drive efficiency, power innovation and support efforts for more affective climate action.

Hosted through the Sustainable Innovation Forum, the event uncovered new trends in data-driven innovations to inform policy, inspire collective action, and explore concrete ways to replicate and scale data innovations toward achieving the Climate Action goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda.

“Data, innovation and technology are essential for efficient and effective climate action and sustainable development,” said Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Amina J. Mohammed in her opening remarks. “The urgency of climate action is increasing… To fully understand and respond to today’s complex and interlinked challenges we need to make the best use of the powerful tools that innovation and technology can offer. This includes collecting analyzing and presenting big data, one of our most powerful new resources.”

Worldwide, better use of data and technology could have immense impact on achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement. For instance, weather collected via vast arrays of easily deployed lightning detection networks could be used to improve crops reports, protect myriad industries from uncertain climate outlooks, and provide fast-acting alerts on severe weather that can destroy infrastructure and take lives.

With financing from the Global Environment Facility Least Developed Countries Fund, Green Climate Fund (GCF), Government of Canada and Adaptation Fund, UNDP supports over 75 countries in modernizing weather, water and climate monitoring and reporting systems worldwide.

One example comes from Malawi, where the Government just launched a UNDP-supported, GCF-Financed climate information project that takes the use of climate data, and extends it to reach vulnerable communities along the “Last Mile” with improved access to farming reports and risk-reduction mechanisms like weather-based index insurance.

“The private sector will be key in bringing this data to the farms, businesses, industries and decision makers that need it most. For instance, mobile operators can share crop reports via cell phones, weather monitoring technologies could be deployed on cell phone towers, Big Data companies can provide platforms to crunch data and package it for use by a diverse group of industries – from energy to agriculture,” said Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Head – UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Global Environmental Finance Unit. “By sharing this data openly across various ministries and economic sectors, decision makers will have improved information to make more evidence-based plans to build National Adaptation Plans and sectoral strategies for climate resilience.”

At the Bonn event, Rober Orr, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General on Climate Change, highlighted that one of the main challenges in leveraging big-data for good is that data is often privately owned – and contains private information – creating a “firewall” that prevents effective sharing with policy makers and the public.

The idea behind “data philanthropy,” according to Orr, is to connect public and private sectors as equal partners.

“Data has immense power to help solve the climate equation… Can we use big data to offer new climate solutions to countries, cities and citizens? Can we leverage big data to bring into the tent those actors that are not currently part of the drive for climate action?” asked Orr. “In the drive for climate action, ‘data exhaust’ can be used in any number of ways to dramatically increase energy efficiency in buildings, enforce regulations on deforestation, manage waste, change consumer patterns, or incentivize investors to create smart cities.”

The event featured winners of the Data for Climate Action Challenge, an open-data innovation competition focused on leveraging big data and analytics for social good.

The challenge was launched earlier this year by UN Global Pulse and Western Digital, calling on innovators, scientists and climate experts to harnesses the power of big data and data science to catalyze action on climate change. The Challenge connected 97 semi-finalist research teams with donated datasets from 11 companies.

In 2016, UNDP hosted a similar innovations challenge through the Climate Action Hackathon, which awarded scholarships to 23 web developers to use climate and weather data to build mobile applications that could be delivered on the ground in Africa.

Western Digital and the United Nations Global Pulse were key partners in the Data for Climate Action Challenge.

In his presentation, David Tang, Senior Vice President at Western Digital, underlined that public-private partnerships are proven to work, and that data can be used to drive efficiency.

“Data can also result in deeper insights, which can help drive the acceleration of breakthrough discoveries and it can also be used to fuel real-time analytics to keep us healthier and safer,” Tang said.

Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of UN Global Pulse, underscored the opportunity-cost of not having big data harnessed around the world already.

“Not having these kinds of solutions already in use at scale around the world is incurring an opportunity-cost for literally billions of people,” said Kirkpatrick. “You know we think of big data as a new kind of natural resource – or unnatural resource – infinitely renewable, increasingly ubiquitous – but one that has fallen into the hands of what’s been an opaque and largely unregulated extractive industry that’s  just beginning to wake up to the recognition that it has a social opportunity – and perhaps a social responsibility – to make sure that this data reaches the people who need it most.”

Watch the event recording by clicking here.

Cover photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash
US GDP forecast revised down as businesses are left reeling by hurricanes

US GDP forecast revised down as businesses are left reeling by hurricanes

By Will Bugler

The full economic impact of hurricanes Harvey and Irma is not yet known, however early estimates are eye-wateringly high. Total economic costs to the region could top US $300 bn (£227 bn) with insurers, small business owners, energy companies and farmers taking the largest hit. The US economic growth forecast was revised down by 0.8%, with Goldman Sachs now predicting the national GDP to grow by 2% in the third quarter. The economic impact for the small island states of the Caribbean is far more devastating, with hurricane Irma destroying 95% of homes on the islands of Barbuda and Sint Maarten.


The insurance industry will bear the brunt of many of the costs in the US, while in the Caribbean where there is less market penetration, governments and citizens will be left footing the bill. The insurance industry is still assessing the cost of Hurricane Harvey, which caused severe flooding in parts of Texas, as over 130 cm (50 inches) of rain fell in just a few days. Initial estimates suggest the insured costs could be as much as US$100 bn.

With Irma causing further devastation in the region, costs could yet rise further. Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, Barrie Cornes, an analyst at the stockbroker Panmure Gordon, said that the overall economic cost could reach US$ 300 billion, US$ 100-150 billion of which would be insured losses.

The increase in severity of storms in the region has already reshaped the insurance market in Florida. Previous storms in the mid 2000s, including Hurricane Katrina, have meant that many of the larger national companies have left the area. Florida’s insurance market is now dominated by smaller firms who are less able to cope with large-scale pay-outs of this sort.


Over a dozen oil refineries were at least partially out of action a full two weeks after hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Estimates suggest that about 2.4 million barrels of refining capacity was offline – 13% of the US’s total refining capacity.

There was an immediate impact on fuel prices in the Caribbean and the US, where prices rose by 30 cents per gallon, reaching US$ 2.67 per gallon in early September. The impacts were felt in other countries too, with fuel prices in the UK rising by 2 pence per litre.


Irma and Harvey’s greatest impact was to property. Homes and businesses across the region were destroyed or damaged, with near total-destruction reported on several Caribbean islands including Barbuda and Sint Maarten. In the US analysts estimated that US$ 2 trillion worth of property was in Irma’s path.


The full extent of the damage to crops on Caribbean Islands is not yet known, but many island economies are highly depended on agriculture, and often on just one or two crops. In the US estimates suggest that 40% of Florida’s valuable citrus crops have been wiped out. Florida is the world’s second largest producer of orange juice. The damage to agriculture in the region has both short-term impacts, pushing food prices up, and leaving farmers with considerable losses, and causes long-term disruption as many crops take several years to establish.

Small Businesses

Almost half of Florida’s homes and businesses remained without electricity after hurricane Irma had rolled over the state, and power restoration remains one of the most important issues to help business recovery rates. In the Caribbean islands such as Puerto Rico is facing long-term power outages, as Irma left 1 million people without electricity – almost a third of the population. Small businesses are also struggling to re-open as many of their employees have suffered considerable damage to their homes and cars.

Cover photo by NASA Earth Observatory, Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey: Hurricane Irma turns Caribbean islands brown.
Three hurricanes in the Atlantic

Three hurricanes in the Atlantic

By Kathryn Hansen

There was no shortage of storms brewing across the Atlantic basin in September 2017. On September 6, hurricanes Katia, Irma, and Jose lined up across the basin. The trio is visible in this image, captured that day by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The image is a mosaic, assembled from images acquired throughout the day during several orbits of the satellite.

On September 6, Katia had strengthened over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and was upgraded from tropical storm to hurricane status. The eye of Irma, a raging category 5 storm, passed north of Puerto Rico but still delivered strong winds and rain the Caribbean island. Meanwhile, Jose spun in the central Atlantic Ocean, and was also upgraded that day from a tropical storm to hurricane.

The bright strips are reflected sunlight, or “glint,” which show up over ocean areas in the middle of each orbit.

This article was originally published by NASA Earth Observatory
Cover image by NASA Earth Observatory image, Joshua Stevens, using VIIRS data from LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response: Hurricanes Katia, Irma and Jose as seen on 6 September. See the image in full resolution by clicking here.
Analyising existing data infrastructures for climate services

Analyising existing data infrastructures for climate services

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

The Horizon 2020 project EU-MACS (EUropean MArket for Climate Services) is in full swing and our research is showing first results. Acclimatise and EU-MACS partner Twente University finalised a report analysing the existing climate data infrastructure, and how it may inhibit or stimulate the European climate services market.

The research involved mapping and cataloguing relationships of organisations involved in the climate data infrastructure value chain, as well as interviewing a few experts to gain further insights and corroborate the literture research. Furthermore, a usability survey was designed and carried out to evaluate a range of climate data websites and portals. Finally, the research analysed data infrastructure governance putting emphasis on the processes of data infrastructure governance in Europe.

Analysing relationships in the climate services value chain.

The findings show that the quality and success of climate services highly depend on whether they will fit user needs. Thus, embedding users as integral and equal partners in the co-construction of climate services is of utmost importance. Bridging the gap between user needs and what providers think users need should be seen as an essential part of climate services development.

The report also developed a series of six hypotheses to be tested during future phases of the EU-MACS project:

  1. A common data format and a common convention for data records and exchange will boost services and the popularisation of climate data use.
  2. Role-specific data finding aides (e.g. effective search functions and clear navigation), offered with real human interactive support, are crucial for successfully establishing and maintaining data provider/ user relationships.
  3. Climate services philosophies sometimes seem to pin all hopes on either a good portal or a good set of aides; the solution, however, seems to be more of a combination of both, plus a good overview of available data sources, functional methods and active human (personal/personnel) engagement facilitating how users interact with both portals and aides.
  4. The ultimate task of a good data infrastructure governance is to emancipate it into a ‘knowledge infrastructure’ with greater usability and real-world application by other sectors (e.g. use of data by the mining sector).
  5. Boundary objects can provide the chance to let disparate knowledges and interest, positions and conventions converge. There are numerous items that may enhance cooperation across the boundary of climate sciences into other domains, for example use cases that show the value of climate services (i.e. the business value) to users operating in other, non-climate services, sectors (e.g. aviation or road engineering).
  6. It makes sense that free and open climate data is made accessible through a portal (e.g. Copernicus C3S) when flanked by support and tutorials that enhances inclusivity of a broader user base. Portals need to increase user experience to maximise impact. Freely available data, when it is not combined with appropriate levels of support, can be problematic.

Download the full report “Analysing existing data infrastructures for climate services” by clicking here.

Cover photo by Michal Osmenda (CC BY 2.0): Weather station on Mount Vesuvius.
Radiant Earth: A new project to harness geospatial data

Radiant Earth: A new project to harness geospatial data

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Bill and Melinda Gates are cooperating with Pierre Omidyar (founder of eBay) to fund the ‘Radiant Earth’ project – a powerful digital platform to harness remote sensing data from earth observation (EO) satellites, aerial and drone imagery. The data, most of which will stem from EO satellites, will be freely available and easily accessible for humanitarian and environmental causes.

Anne Hale Miglarese, CEO of Radiant, said the platform “will help build the ‘who, what, where when or why’ for the planning and management of issues such as land tenure, global health, sustainable development, food security and disaster response.” Radiant, which will require a multi-million-dollar investment, aims at finding ways to analyse and combine the data, and offer it free of charge and in formats that will be easily understood by novice users.

This project follows such initiatives as the European earth observation programme Copernicus, which provides free and open EO data from its own satellites and from contributing missions. Programmes like Radiant and Copernicus are powerful tools for all types of climate services. Data procurement can be complicated and expensive, so having free, open data can stimulate the climate services market and will be invaluable for non-profit organisations. It also offers opportunities to engage people from a young age and let them experiment with and learn about data.

The specific focus of Radiant will be to “positively impact the developing world’s greatest social, economic and environmental challenges.” However, its coverage will be global and could eventually benefit a range of people and organisations.


Visit the Radiant website by clicking here.

Cover photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Public Domain)