Top 10 Earth Observation Stories of 2023
This year has been filled with fascinating Earth observation stories, ranging from volcanic eruptions to icebergs on the move. As we bid farewell to 2023, let’s take a look back at the top 10 most memorable stories that captured our attention and provided valuable insights into our planet’s environmental changes.
1. Copernicus Celebrates 25 Years: Europe’s Eyes on Earth
In 1998, Copernicus Sentinel satellites and contributing missions began providing free and open data for environmental monitoring. For 25 years, these satellites have played a vital role in addressing challenges such as climate change, diminishing polar ice, food security, and natural disasters.
2. Spotting Smelly Seaweed from Space
One of the most intriguing observations made by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite was the detection of a large brown seaweed called Sargassum. This seaweed emits a pungent smell when it rots, and its massive bloom spanned over 8800 km and weighed around 10 million tonnes, making it visible from space.
3. Counting Worldwide Wildfires
Thanks to the ESA’s World Fire Atlas, we gained insights into the distribution of individual fires across several countries, including Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Algeria, and Canada. The Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service also played a crucial role in aiding civil protection authorities and the international humanitarian community in responding to these emergencies.
4. Record Low Ice Loss from Antarctica and Greenland
Data from satellites such as ESA’s CryoSat and the Copernicus Sentinel-1 helped measure changes in ice volume and flow. Between 1992 and 2020, the polar ice sheets lost a staggering 7560 billion tonnes of ice. Understanding these changes is essential for addressing the impact of climate change.
5. Watching an Iceberg Larger Than London Break Free
In a remarkable display of satellite imagery, we witnessed the calving of a massive iceberg, measuring approximately 1550 sq km, from Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf. This event highlights the incredible monitoring capabilities of satellites, providing unparalleled views of events happening in remote regions.
6. 2023 Set to Be Hottest Year on Record
The World Meteorological Organization’s provisional State of the Global Climate report confirmed what many feared – 2023 is likely to be the warmest year on record. Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission’s radiometer instrument showed high land surface temperatures during July, underscoring the urgency of addressing climate change.
7. Mapping Methane Super-Emitters
For the first time, scientists combined data from multiple satellites to monitor methane emissions from space. By using data from Copernicus Sentinel-5P, Sentinel-2, and Sentinel-3, they identified, quantified, and monitored methane sources. This information is crucial for understanding and addressing methane’s impact on climate change.
8. One of the Biggest Ozone Holes on Record
Observations from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite revealed that the ozone hole reached a size of approximately 26 million sq km. This unusual ozone pattern could be attributed to the 2022 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, emphasizing the need for continued monitoring of ozone levels.
9. Farewell to the Aeolus Wind Mission
ESA’s Aeolus wind mission exceeded expectations as it provided invaluable data on wind patterns. Sadly, the mission recently reentered Earth’s atmosphere, contributing to space debris mitigation efforts. Nonetheless, its impact on our understanding of wind dynamics will be remembered.
10. New Era of Satellite Meteorology with the Meteosat Third Generation Imager
The Meteosat Third Generation Imager revolutionized severe storm detection and prediction by providing detailed images of weather over Europe and Africa. Additionally, the Lightning Imager, capable of continuously detecting lightning, promises to further enhance severe storm forecasting.
In conclusion, the Earth observation stories of 2023 have not only captivated our imaginations but also provided essential insights into our planet’s environmental changes and weather patterns. From celebrating milestones to monitoring natural phenomena, these stories highlight the significance of satellite technology in understanding and responding to global challenges. Let’s look forward to the exciting discoveries and insights that the coming year will bring.
“Travel aficionado. Incurable bacon specialist. Tv evangelist. Wannabe internet enthusiast. Typical creator.”