European Space Agency's New Mission Will Help Track Earth's Climate

This could help make better strategic policy decisions in the future.
Fabienne Lang

There's little point denying our planet is undergoing severe climate changes.  You've no doubt noticed changes in your local climate over the past few years. Now, you will be able to have an even more accurate understanding of what is happening to our Earth. 

The European Space Agency (ESA) shared the news on Tuesday that it will launch a new mission. The mission will add an integral element to assessing climate change.

Known as the Far-infrared Outgoing Radiation Understanding and Monitoring mission, or FORUM, it will also play a significant role in how future policy decisions are made.


What will FORUM do?

Going further than the current infrared spectrum being measured, FORUM, ESA's ninth Earth Explorer mission, will record far-infrared emissions sent out from Earth into space. In doing so, Earth's radiation budget will be more closely monitored. 

Earth's radiation budget is the balance between incoming energy from the Sun, and outgoing thermal longwave, as well as shortwave energy from the Sun. 

When this budget is imbalanced, our Earth's temperatures can fluctuate, leading to dangerous changes. Unfortunately, us humans and our activities have already changed the atmosphere.

For the first time in history, it will measure the outgoing longwave energy, which is in the far-infrared section of the electromagnetic spectrum. Thanks to the mission, a clearer idea of what is happening at different levels of altitude will be gained. 

Furthermore, it will enable more accurate tracking of specific atmospheric components, such as water vapor and ice clouds. 

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Formaldehyde over South America and Africa in August 2019 Using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission, the image shows how much formaldehyde was released from wildfires in Brazil in August 2019 compared to August 2018. The image also features Africa, which and has also experienced fires. Formaldehyde is an important intermediate gas in the oxidation of methane and other hydrocarbons. While it is short-lived in the atmosphere, it reacts chemically to become a major source of carbon monoxide – another harmful pollutant. Copyright contains modified Copernicus data (2018/2019), processed by BIRA-IASB #sentinel5P #esa #copernicus #africa #amazon #amazonfires #fires #southamerica #earthfromspace #satellites #satelliteimages #earthscience #earthobservation #Formaldehyde

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Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programmes, said "FORUM will measure, for the first time, the far-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum from space, thus allowing us to understand the energy balance of our planet better. FORUM will bring great benefits to climate science."

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Aschbacher continued, "Better understanding the complexity of our climate system and filling gaps in our knowledge is of critical importance as the consequences of climate change are far-reaching, affecting all facets of society and the natural world."

The mission is not quite ready to be launched, though. Some final touches have yet to be made before it's completed for its intended launch date in 2026.

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