Envisat Symposium report day 2: GMES turns science to services

Simply in terms of its ambition, the joint ESA and European Commission (EC) initiative known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) might sound like the stuff of science fiction. However, as Envisat symposium participants learned at a special session on Tuesday, the first elements of GMES are already a reality, and providing operational services to users worldwide. "Humanitarian workers operating in strife-torn Darfur or flooded Bangladesh are guided by satellite-derived maps supplied by one GMES activity," explained Jos Achache, ESA Director of ESA Earth Observation Programmes. "Meanwhile ships navigating through ice-infested waters in northern Canada rely on radar data supplied by another such project." European firefighters base their preventative activities on forest fire risk maps based on data from space, as governments and organisations concerned with food security can rely on early warning of famine from a systematic satellite survey of Sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, a space-based inventory of carbon-rich forests provides support for the Kyoto Protocol.

All these activities are part of ESA's initial contribution to GMES a suite of 12 service portfolios known as the GMES Services Element (GSE), all related to public policy needs and linked to public institutions with an operational mandate. The wide-area view granted by Envisat and other Earth Observation satellites represents a crucial capability for GMES, but it relies on integrating data from many sources and multi-disciplinary fields.

GMES is being enlarged on a modular basis, the session heard, and scientific research represents the source of services to come.

"We're trying to build the future with GMES, and it requires strong links with the research community," said Marco Malacarne of the EC's GMES Unit. "Together with ESA we have set up the GMES Programme Office and also the GMES Advisory Council, which includes representatives of all ESA

Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
European Space Agency

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