Climate Missions

NCEO scientists are playing a leading role in some vital climate missions together with our international collaborators. This page illustrates some of the key satellites in space which are operational for climate or will be launched as explorers allowing us to investigate change across the Earth consistently and in many inaccessible locations.

© ESA Biomass_satellite image


European Space Agency Earth Explorer

Launch Date: 2023

The Biomass mission will deliver crucial, new, global measurements of the biomass of forests using the first ever space radar using a 70 cm wavelength, chosen for its sensitivity to biomass.  Using multiple images of the forest, above-ground biomass and forest height will be measured globally twice per year for five years, reducing  the current major uncertainties about forest carbon content, particularly in the huge tropical forests. Measuring biomass and its change is central to estimating the impact of forests on atmospheric carbon dioxide, their role in offsetting carbon emissions and providing accurate data for carbon credits.

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Professor Quegan said: “BIOMASS is one of most significant upcoming missions for carbon. It has a critical role in measuring the  carbon storage of dense, tropical forests, and will address this by delivering vastly improved data and 3-D maps at a scale of 200 m. These maps will provide near-global coverage of the world's forests, but most crucially for the enormous forests in the tropics.” NCEO Lead Scientist: Prof. Shaun Quegan (U. Sheffield). Prof Quegan is Chair of the BIOMASS MissionAdvisory Group

© ESA/Airbus


European (multi-national consortium) Climate Mission

Launch Date: 2028+

TRUTHS is a ground-breaking mission, inspired by the National Physical Laboratory, which will set a new benchmark to detect change in Earth’s climate system in particular its optical or shortwave radiation as reflected to space. Essentially TRUTHS helps us to accurately observe an important component of the radiation budget of the Earth. By reducing uncertainties due to calibration, it will provide a gold-standard reference for satellites observing the Earth, Moon & Sun and will speed up our ability to accurately assess the impact of our climate actions. The key elements of TRUTHS are a visible-shortwave infrared, hyperspectral imager calibrated through a cryogenic absolute standard coupled through a transfer radiometer. TRUTHS will be built by the UK space industry, led by Airbus, with partners from Europe.

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John Remedios: “TRUTHS will deliver the first absolute calibration of an optical instrument in space, traceable through metrological approaches to absolute standards. The hyperspectral nature of the data enables it to advance a range of essential climate information and to provide new surface reflectance observations. Its potential to calibrate other optical sensors is unprecedented. NCEO Lead Scientists: Prof. J. Remedios (U. Leicester), Dr. R. Bantges (Imperial College), Prof. P. Lewis (UCL) and Prof. P. North (U. Swansea)

© CNES/Illustration Oliver Sattler 2015


French-UK Climate Mission

Launch Date: 2023

MicroCarb is the first European satellite dedicated to measuring carbon dioxide (CO2), providing highly precise determinations of its atmospheric concentrations across the globe. These atmospheric data will play a significant role in our understanding of greenhouse gas emissions and the determination of net fluxes (emissions minus uptake; net zero occurs when uptake balances emissions) particularly where there is a lack of ground stations. A novel contribution is a city scanning mode which allows for high spatial resolution data (typically 2 x 2 km2) for selected large/mega cities. Microcarb is a collaboration between CNES in France and the UK Space Agency.

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Paul Palmer: “MicroCarb will ensure the continuation of the atmospheric CO2 record from satellites, and allow us to monitor the carbon balance over some of the most climate-vulnerable regions across the world.” Hartmut Boesch: “The city mode of MicroCarb will provides us with important observations that will help us to better understand and quantify urban carbon emissions”