Envisat concludes a busy second year in orbit

can be 'mined' for many other applications. For example, part of Envisat's 'background mission' has involved prioritising acquiring images of the 15% or so of the planet's land surface classed as seismically active.

The policy paid off in the aftermath of the tragic Bam earthquake that took place in Iran in December 2003. Before and after images of the quake zone were successfully merged using a technique called radar interferometry to identify very tiny ground movements occurring between acquisitions, allowing geologists to work out the location and extent of the subsurface fault responsible.

MERIS tracks algae blooms

Meanwhile regularly updated MERIS images of the Southern Ocean off the coast of Chile are being used together with AATSR sea surface temperature products to identify and forecast the distribution of potentially hazardous algae blooms.

MERIS is an ocean colour sensor optimised to detect chlorophyll pigments in the water an indication of the presence of microscopic organisms called phytoplankton. In certain conditions the growth of these organisms 'blooms' out of control.

Interest in bloom tracking goes beyond the purely scientific, because some species of algae contain toxins that can poison marine life as well as any humans that eat them. Alternatively algae blooms can exhaust water of oxygen, suffocating larger fish.

Fish farms are particularly vulnerable to algae blooms because the fish cannot flee affected areas. In the past algae blooms have caused millions of Euros worth of annual losses to the 360 fish farms found in the southern region of Chile.

The country's national fish farming association, Salmon Chile, has co-founded a pilot scheme with oceanography firm Mariscope Chilena to investigate the feasibility of an operational satellite early warning service for algae blooms. "Since the end of last year, high concentrations of phytoplankton have been measured from in s

Contact: Henri Laur
European Space Agency

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