COVID-19 : Space Agencies collaborate for Earth Observation Dashboard
In an unprecedented collaboration, ESA, NASA and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) have created a new tool that combines a wealth of data from Earth-observing satellites to monitor the worldwide impacts of COVID-19. This new online platform is now available to the public. 1) 2)
The new ‘COVID-19 Earth Observation Dashboard’ integrates multiple satellite data records from the three space agencies with analytical tools to allow users to track changes in air and water quality, climate change, economic activity and agriculture. The tri-agency platform gives the general public and policy-makers a unique platform to explore the short and long term impacts of the coronavirus lockdown.
Figure 1: NASA, ESA, and JAXA have assembled a wide array of their observations of Earth from space, including “nightlights” data from the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite, to track global and local changes brought on by the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This image shows San Francisco Bay (image credit: NASA)
Figure 2: COVID-19 led to changes in human activities around the globe. Some bodies of water have run clearer, emissions of pollutants have temporarily declined, and transportation and shipment of goods have decreased. We can see some of these changes from space. NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are making satellite data available on the new COVID-19 Earth Observation Dashboard (video credit: NASA)
This tri-agency data resource gives the public and policymakers a unique tool to probe the short-term and long-term impacts of pandemic-related restrictions implemented around the world. The dashboard will continue to grow with new observations added over the coming months as the global economy gradually reopens.
“Together NASA, ESA, and JAXA represent a great human asset: advanced Earth-observing instruments in space that are used every day to benefit society and advance knowledge about our home planet,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science. “When we began to see from space how changing patterns of human activity caused by the pandemic were having a visible impact on the planet, we knew that if we combined resources, we could bring a powerful new analytical tool to bear on this fast-moving crisis.”
In April, the three agencies formed a task force to take on the challenge. The group identified the most relevant satellite data streams and adapted existing computing infrastructure to share data from across the agencies and produce relevant indicators. The dashboard presents users with seamless access to data indicating changes in air and water quality, economic and agricultural activity on a global scale and in select areas of interest.
Air quality changes around the world were among the first noticeable impacts of pandemic-related stay-at-home orders and reductions in industrial activity that emerged from satellite observations. One air pollutant, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is primarily the result of burning fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation, shows up clearly in satellite data. NO2 has a lifetime of a few hours and is a precursor of ground-level ozone, which makes it a useful indicator of short-term air quality changes. The dashboard brings together current NO2 data from two NASA and ESA satellites, along with historical data for comparison. In additional to the global view of NO2, targeted regional areas include Los Angeles, Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, and Madrid.
Changes in another critical component of our atmosphere, carbon dioxide (CO2), are highlighted in the dashboard to probe how global and local reactions to the pandemic have changed concentrations of this climate-warming greenhouse gas. Because of CO2’s high background concentration in the atmosphere and its long atmospheric lifetime of more than 100 years, short-term changes in atmospheric CO2 resulting from changes in anthropogenic emissions are very small relative to expected variations in abundances from the natural carbon cycle.
A recent study in the journal Nature estimated that a three-month economic slowdown such as the world has just experienced would temporarily reduce the expected increase in CO2 concentrations from emissions into the atmosphere by a fraction of a percent. The dashboard presents data from a NASA satellite to look for global-scale, long-term changes in CO2. Carbon dioxide observations from a JAXA satellite zooms in on changes in select urban areas such as New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Delhi. Analysis from both NASA and JAXA data sets are consistent with the estimates of emission reductions in the Nature study.
Recent water quality changes have been reported in a few locations that typically have intense human activities, such as industry and tourism, which have decreased during the pandemic. The dashboard presents targeted satellite observations from all three agencies of total suspended matter and chlorophyll concentrations in select coastal areas, harbors, and semi-enclosed bays to assess what has produced these changes in water quality, how widespread they may be, and how long they last. Long Island Sound, the North Adriatic Sea, and Tokyo Bay are among the areas examined.
Widespread declines in global economic activity are a well-known impact of the pandemic. Observations from space over time of shipping activity in ports, cars parked at shopping centers, and nighttime lights in urban areas can be used as indicators of how specific sectors of the economy have been affected. Satellite data from each agency and commercial data purchased by NASA and ESA are presented in the dashboard to quantify these changes in Los Angeles; the Port of Dunkirk, France; Ghent, Belgium; Beijing, and other locations.
Figure 3: The collective power of space-based Earth observations from NASA, ESA, and JAXA to see global changes around the world has been harnessed to produce the COVID-19 Earth Observation Dashboard. In this video, leaders from each agency – Thomas Zurbuchen (NASA), Josef Aschbacher (ESA), and Koji Terada (JAXA) – discuss their unprecedented collaboration (video credits: NASA/ESA/JAXA)
The dashboard will also present tri-agency satellite data looking for signs of changes in agricultural production around the world, such as harvesting and planting due to disruptions in the food supply chain or the availability of labor. Understanding the extent of any such changes would be important in maintaining global and local markets and food security as the world recovers from the pandemic.
NASA, ESA, JAXA Release Global View of COVID-19 Impacts
NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) have created a dashboard of satellite data showing impacts on the environment and socioeconomic activity caused by the global response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 3)
The dashboard will be released on Thursday, June 25 during a tri-agency media briefing. The briefing speakers are:
• Josef Aschbacher, director of ESA Earth Observation Programmes
• Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate
• Koji Terada, vice president and director general for the Space Technology Directorate at JAXA
• Shin-ichi Sobue, project manager for JAXA’s ALOS-2 mission
• Ken Jucks, program scientist for NASA’s OCO-2 and Aura missions
• Anca Anghelea, open data scientist, ESA Earth observation programmes
Figure 4: ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes can be grouped into three main categories: operational Sentinel satellites in the context of the European Copernicus Programme, the scientific Earth Explorers, and the meteorological missions (image credit: ESA, Josef Aschbacher)
Figure 5: These maps compare the average nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations for the time period from March 13 to April 13, 2020, to March-April 2019. Due to reduced industrial and social activity, the maps show a clear drop in atmospheric NO2 concentrations over Europe reaching over 50% over some of the main urban areas (image credit: ESA, Josef Aschbacher)
Figure 6: International collaboration has long been an important part of Earth Science at NASA. Twelve of NASA’s 39 Earth-observing missions currently in orbit or in development involve international collaborations (image credit: NASA, Thomas Zurbuchen)
Figure 7: One type of agricultural productivity information that will be added to the dashboard in the weeks ahead comes from the Global Agriculture Monitoring (GLAM) System supported by NASA. This map shows the amount of surface moisture in soil across the United States from June 12-21. Red areas have dry soil conditions; green/blue areas are much wetter (image credit: NASA, Thomas Zurbuchen)
Figure 8: Data from the JAXA Earth-observing satellites GOSAT, ALOS-2 and GCOM-C are contributing to the dashboard to monitor changes in climate, the environment, and socio-economic activities (image credit: JAXA, Koji Terada)
Figure 9: JAXA’s Earth-observing satellite fleet allows us to monitor a variety of physical parameters on Earth's surface and atmosphere globally and periodically (image credit: JAXA, Koji Terada)
Figure 10: Using JAXA’s ALOS-2 and European Sentinel-1, cars in parking area near factories have been observed over time to monitor changes in car density. (Left) Red rectangle area shows parking area occupied by new cars at an automobile factory near Beijing airport in 2019 and 2020. In the period of the lockdown, the density of new cars has dropped significantly. (Right) A different example from Singapore port show the density of cars dropping from the end of April. The government decided to use that parking area for temporary accommodations for COVID-19 patients (image credit: JAXA, Shin-ichi Sobue)
Figure 11: Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) abundances for March from the last four years and for 2020 from the OMI instrument on the NASA Aura satellite. The 2020 reductions in observed NO2 correspond with the reductions in fossil fuel emissions during that time frame in the New York City metropolitan area (image credit: NASA, ESA, Ken Jucks)
Figure 12: Changes in carbon dioxide (CO2) abundances from a model that is highly constrained by data from the NASA OCO-2 mission from the previous three years compared to 2020 for three separate times. These very small changes are expected. The timing of the low CO2 over Asia, then Europe, then the United States correspond with the reductions in fossil fuel burning from the slowdown in economies over these time frames (image credit: NASA, JAXA, Ken Jucks)
Figure 13: Differences in CO2 concentrations between the lower and upper troposphere derived from the JAXA GOSAT satellite as derived from repeated focused observations over Beijing over the past four-plus years. These plots show that the lower troposphere abundances are lower than prior years through March but they appear to recover in April (image credit: NASA/JAXA, Ken Jucks)
Figure 14: In Europe, the COVID-19 outbreak severely restricted the movement of seasonal agricultural workers, which affected the highly labor-intensive harvesting of asparagus in Germany. Satellite observations allowed for monitoring continuously the cultivated white asparagus fields documenting a 20-30% lower area in March and April during the lockdown in Brandenburg (image credit: NASA/ESA/JAXA, Anca Anghelea)
Figure 15: The dashboard design and development evolved through the collaboration between the triagency engineering and science teams. A wide range of satellite Earth observation data were processed using established scientific protocols and innovative artificial intelligence methods to generate the dashboard information products. Cloud computing, datacubes and shared APIs were key enabling technologies (image credit: NASA/ESA/JAXA, Anca Anghelea)
Figure 16: COVID-19 Earth Observation Dashboard users can filter and select data from Countries and Indicators lists, the map (center), or from the table view. Spotlight Areas are marked on the map, with a number shown of how many indicators are available in each area. The right panel displays the indicator data and provides additional information (image credit: NASA/ESA/JAXA, Anca Anghelea)
1) ”Space agencies join forces to produce global view of COVID-19 impacts,” ESA Applications, 25 June 2020, URL: http://www.esa.int/Applications/Observing_the_Earth
Steve Cole, Sean Potter, ”NASA, Partner Space Agencies Amass
Global View of COVID-19 Impacts,” NASA News Release, 20-067, 25
June 2020, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).