New developments for GEOSS
Planet Earth is a complex system of systems, which for understanding it data from multiple observation networks and systems is required. To meet this challenge a global Earth observation system of systems is needed. The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is an Intergovernmental organization established in 2005 to implement such the coordinated and sustained Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). The system consists of 72 Member Countries, the European Commission (EC), and 52 Participating Organizations. It is a global distributed system, including satellite observation systems, global, local and regional networks and systems, which deliver the benefits of Earth Observation to both data and information providers and worldwide users. UN organizations and programs, such as FAO, IOC, ISDR, UNEP, UNESCO, UNFCCC, UNITAR/ UNOSAT, UNOOSA, WMO, and other leading international organizations in different domains, like CEOS, ESA, EUMETSAT, FDSN, IAG, ICSU, OGC are its Participating Organizations. GEOSS is built from the expansion and interlinking of existing observation and information systems and the investments of Members and Participating Organizations in new systems.
Background at a glance
In the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 the urgency for coordinated observations of Earth’s state was highlighted. The Summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries in June 2003 in Evian, France, prioritized the importance of Earth observations. These high-level meetings recognized that international collaboration is essential for exploiting the growing potential of Earth observations to support decision making in an increasingly complex and environmentally stressed world.
In July 2003 the First Earth Observation Summit convened in Washington, D.C. and adopted a Declaration establishing the ad-hoc intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) to draft a 10-Year Implementation Plan. The Second Earth Observation Summit in Tokyo, Japan, in April 2004 adopted a Framework Document defining the scope and intent of GEOSS. In the Third Earth Observation Summit that was held in Brussels in February 2005, the GEOSS 10-Year Implementation Plan was endorsed and establishment of GEO to carry out the plan approved. The G8 Heads of State supported GEOSS in the Gleneagles Plan of Action released in July 2005. The G8 Heads also pledged to continue exercising leadership in the development of GEOSS in their June 2007 Summit Declaration adopted in Heiligendamm, Germany. They further agreed to accelerate efforts to strengthen observation, prediction and data sharing within GEOSS in their Declaration on Environment adopted in Hokkaido, Japan in July 2008.
GEO and GEOSS
GEO is a voluntary partnership of governments and international organizations. It provides a framework within which these partners can develop new projects and coordinate their strategies and investments. GEO has constructed GEOSS on the basis of a 10-Year Implementation Plan for the period 2005 to 2015. The Plan defines a vision statement for GEOSS, its purpose and scope, expected benefits, and the broad range of nine “Societal Benefit Areas” including, reducing loss of life and property from natural and human-induced disasters, understanding environmental factors affecting human health and well-being, improving the management of energy resources, understanding, assessing, predicting, mitigating, and adapting to climate variability and change, improving water resource management through better understanding of the water cycle, improving weather information, forecasting and warning, improving the management and protection of terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems, supporting sustainable agriculture and combating desertification, and understanding, monitoring and conserving biodiversity.
Governed by a Plenary consisting of all Members and Participating Organizations, GEO meets in Plenary at least once a year at the level of senior officials and periodically at the ministerial level. The first meeting of the Plenary was held in May 2005 in Geneva, followed by GEO-II in December 2005 in Geneva, GEO-III in Bonn in November 2006, and GEO-IV (plus a Ministerial Summit) in Cape Town in November 2007. Decisions are made by the Members at the Plenary by consensus. An Executive Committee oversees GEO activities when the Plenary is not in session. It consists of 12 representatives elected from the five GEO regions, including three each from the Americas, Asia and Europe, two from Africa, and one from the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Committee is responsible for guiding the Secretariat. GEO Members elect four Co-Chairs who preside over both the Plenary and the Executive Committee.
GEO-I established four Committees and one Working Group to guide the implementation of the 10-Year Plan. The Committees are organized around the four Transverse Areas of user engagement, architecture, data management and capacity building, which cut across, and are relevant to, each of the issue-specific Societal Benefit Areas. The four permanent bodies are the Committees for Architecture and Data, Science and Technology, User Interface, and Capacity Building. A Working Group on Tsunami Activities has also established by the Plenary.
The GEOSS Common Infrastructure allows the user of Earth observations to access, search and use the data, information, tools and services available through GEOSS. The infrastructure consists of four main elements:
- The GEO Portal that provides direct web interface through which the user accesses GEOSS and searches for information and services.
- The GEOSS Clearinghouse which is the engine that drives the entire system. It connects directly to the various GEOSS components and services, collects and searches their information and distributes data and services via the Portal to the user.
- The GEOSS Components and Services Registry that is similar to a library catalogue. All of the governments and organizations that contribute components and services to GEOSS provide essential details about the name, contents, and management of their contribution. This assists the Clearinghouse, and ultimately the user, to identify the GEOSS resources that may be of interest.
- The GEOSS Standards and Interoperability Registry that enables contributors to GEOSS to configure their systems so that they can share information with other systems. This Registry is vital to the ability of GEOSS to function as a true system of systems and to provide integrated and crosscutting information and services. Contributors can also share ideas and proposals informally via the associated Standards and Interoperability Forum.
Each element of the GEOSS Common Infrastructure has been contributed by GEO Members and Participating Organizations. Their commitment and generosity in assuring its operation and continuity is vital to the success of GEOSS. The success of GEOSS depends on data and information providers accepting and implementing a set of interoperability arrangements, including technical specifications for collecting, processing, storing, and disseminating shared data, metadata, and products. Seven shortcoming areas that GEOSS could address on the other hand are as: lack of access to data and associated benefits in the developing world, eroding technical infrastructure, large spatial and temporal gaps in specific data sets, inadequate data integration and interoperability, uncertainty over continuity of observations, inadequate user involvement, and lack of relevant processing systems to transform data into useful information.
GEOSS 10- Year Implementation Plan explicitly acknowledges the importance of data sharing in achieving the GEOSS vision and anticipated societal benefits. The Plan, endorsed at the 2005 Third Earth Observation Summit in Brussels highlights the GEOSS Data Sharing Principles as: (1) full and open exchange of data, metadata, and products shared within GEOSS, recognizing relevant international instruments and national policies and legislation, (2) availability of all shared data, metadata, and products with minimum time delay and at minimum cost, and (3) gratuitousness of all shared data, metadata, and products and encouragement of reproduction for research and education .
Some Space Technology related Achievements for GEOSS
In line with its 10- Year Implementation Plan GEOSS applies various space technologies to attain its goals in the framework of the defined Societal Benefit Areas. Remote sensing, global navigation, geoinformation and spatial data management and handling systems are amongst the broad extent of the techniques and procedures that uses space science and technologies. Some recent and new developments in this connection is given below.
Interactions with the UN Charter on Space and major Disasters
UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) and GEO has made an initiative on the basis of the request made by GEO to the Charter to consider putting in place the necessary provisions and proper mechanisms to enable GEO Members to authorized access to Charter during emergencies and also access to the archive of previous interventions. It is in line with strengthening of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters and similar support activities to enable better response to and documentation of effects of disasters, such as floods, earthquakes and oil spills. Its scope may be expanded to allow for pre-event tasking where forecasting is adequate to justify the effort (wild land fires, some floods and coastal disasters, volcanic eruptions). The expanded scope will also encompass Earth Observation training and capacity building of local users in affected areas, particularly in developing countries.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan and the United State National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contribute a global digital elevation model (GDEM) to the world’s scientific and applications communities under the auspices of GEOSS. METI and NASA in conjunction with the Japanese Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Center (ERSDAC) and the US Geological Survey (USGS) are producing the GDEM with data acquired by the METI Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) onboard the NASA Terra satellite which launched into orbit in 1999. The instrument has been collecting data since February 2000. ASTER provides high-resolution images of the Earth in 15 different bands ranging from visible to thermal infrared light with the resolution of images ranging between 15 to 90 meters. Its data is used to create detailed maps of surface temperature of land, emissivity, reflectance, and elevation. The 30m-resolution GDEM will be an exciting and essential advancement for the broad user community, which will be widely used in many applications with important benefits to the society. ASTER GDEM will be available at no cost to the worldwide user community early in 2009 as an ASTER data product.
CBERS-2B satellite data and products for Africa
Announced at the GEO Cape Town Ministerial Summit on 30 November 2007, China and Brazil will grant free downlink licenses and upgrades of the ground stations, which receive, process, store and distribute the imagery of the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite-2B (CBERS-2B) free of charge. CBERS is a technological cooperation program between Brazil and China which develops and operates Earth observation satellites. China and Brazil are working with South Africa, Spain and Italy to sign three parties MOU for distribution of CBERS satellites imagery. Downlink to South Africa station has been successfully tested. National Institute of Space Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais; INPE) and the Brazilian Space Agency (Agência Espacial Brasileira; AEB) are involved with the program from Brazil and the Chinese Academy for Space Technology and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) are the main Chinese counterpart organizations.
CBERS-2B was launched on 19 September 2007 by Chinese Long March 4B from Taiyuan in China. As a sun-synchronous satellite orbiting the Earth at 778 km of altitude, it has four remote sensing multispectral cameras including Wide Field Imager (WFI), High Resolution Charge Coupled Device (CCD), Infrared Multispectral Scanner (IRMSS) and High Resolution Panchromatic Camera (HRC). WFI works in two spectral red and infrared bands with 260m spatial resolution and 890 km of ground swath. The CCD Camera that records images in panchromatic, blue, green, red and near infrared bands has 20m spatial resolution and 120 km of ground swath. IRMSS collect images in panchromatic, infrared and thermal infrared bands with 80m spatial resolution on the three infrared reflected bands and 120 m in the thermal infrared with ground swath of 120 km for all the bands of the camera. HRC records the images in one single panchromatic band with 27km width and 2.7m spatial resolution.
Implementation of GEONETCast
Creating common, cross-disciplinary tools is a significant aspect of GEOSS. Since 2006, GEO is pursuing a demonstration project for its outstanding effort called GEONETCast. Built on the existing networks, the project will create a dissemination system by which environmental satellite and in situ data, products, and services from GEOSS are transmitted to users through a global network of communications satellites, using a multicast, access-controlled, broadband capability. GEO is examining how GEONETCast could evolve into a data collection system in later phases. Presently low cost, easy to operate user terminals is provided. In Global Coverage NOAA’s GEONETCast Americas acceptance is nearly finalized; EUMETCast–FENGYUNCast data exchange is operational; Dissemination of exchanged data starts this year; and Russia’s MITRA system will be initiated at the technical level.
Radiocommunication spectrum allocation for Remote Sensing
GEO makes notable contribution through collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to promote, by the appropriate alerting authorities, the implementation of the international standard for all-media public warning across all disaster and emergency situations. Based on the resolution of the 2007 World Radio Conference on radio communication use for Earth observation applications and the support it provides for the international protection and long term availability of frequencies for terrestrial, oceanic, air-borne, and space-based observations, including passive measurements, a framework agreement has been signed between ITU and the GEO Secretariat aimed at strengthening cooperation on remote sensing of the Earth, particularly in the field of disaster preparedness and response. Expected benefits that such the collaboration will provide to the global community include: allocation and protection for the dedicated radio frequencies that remote sensing satellites and Earth-based monitors use for gathering high-quality data on the global environment; improved application of Earth observations to disaster management; and increased capacity building in developing countries for the effective use of Earth observations in decision-making.
During the year 2007 a unique opportunity for space GEO observations has emerged which is being assessed within partnership and within the global user communities. The practicality of embarking up to 66 Earth observation payloads on Iridium NEXT constellation is realized that would really help to revolutionize Earth observations. The launches will start in 2013 and the constellation’s operational life will extend beyond 2030. Guest sensors will utilize the real-time communication backbone of Iridium and, along with the constellation approach to sensing, will enable key climate related observations and services such as now-casting and disaster early warning. The meeting at the Royal Society in London on January 22, 2008 was the notable step of this continuous assessment. The meeting, “Exploiting the New Earth Observation Paradigm,” organized by Trident Sensors Ltd. was a follow-up to the GEO-IV Plenary and GEO Cape Town Ministerial Summit in November 2007. Bringing together over 120 representatives from the international environment and climate science communities, leading U. S. and European weather and space agencies, and aerospace industry representatives the meeting explored plans to host Earth observation payloads on Iridium’s NEXT constellation. Activity now focused on working with the national weather and space agencies and the science community to identify critical missions and mechanisms to secure appropriate funding for the program.
Parviz Tarikhi heads the Microwave Remote Sensing Department at the Mahdasht Satellite Receiving Station. He has been involved with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS) since 2000, including as second vice-chair, and rapporteur in 2004-06 of the committee bureau. Since 2001 he has co-chaired Action Team 1 of UNISPACE-III with the mission ‘to develop a comprehensive worldwide environmental monitoring strategy’. From 2004-07 he conducted the Office for Specialised International Co-operation of the Iranian Space Agency. He is also a freelance journalist and technical writer.
Membership status of GEO Group as at November 2007
(Image credit: GEO Secretariat)
GEOSS societal benefits areas
(Image credit: GEO Secretariat)
GEOSS common infrastructure elements
(Image credit: GEO Secretariat)
Earth System diagram
(Image credit: GEO Secretariat)
ASTER GDEM of salt glaciers in Zagros Mountains, Iran
(Image credit: ASTER)
Running (Green for Brazil, red for China) and planed Ground Stations for Africa. The locations of the ground stations in Spain, South Africa, Kenya and Italy
(Image credit: GEO Secretariat)
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