National Physical Laboratory

Providing quality assurance to data delivered by Copernicus Climate Change Service

The Centre for Carbon Measurement at NPL, in collaboration with the University of Reading and Telespazio France, has launched a major new project to ensure the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) delivers climate-quality data products with clear and robust assessments of their accuracy, allowing its users to assess the 'fitness for purpose' of the data for their applications.

Copernicus logo

The European Union has made clear its commitment to provide international leadership in the development of the climate services sector. Copernicus provides governments, industry and agencies with free access to climate data. The European Union expects its open data strategy to deliver a €40 billion annual boost to the European economy ['Digital Agenda: Turning government data into gold', European Commission press release, 12 December 2011], and Copernicus contributes its wealth of data to this capital. By providing accurate, timely and open data Copernicus aims to spark a sea change in the way decision-makers predict and influence the Earth's climate.

The transformation of increasingly vast amounts of observational data into usable products and services has significant socioeconomic benefits. It provides policy-makers with the evidence needed to instigate and monitor key climate policies (e.g. the Paris climate agreement) in a timely manner, enables job creation, provides economic growth and gives scientists access to the reliable information and associated tools needed to more quickly and accurately understand the rate of environmental change and its consequential impact on society.

The C3S is the platform upon which this vision will be delivered. Implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), it will provide an open access portal to global data provided by global suppliers, from both in-situ and satellite sources. However, providing access to data on its own is not adequate, even with analytical tools to search and manipulate the terabytes of data. The full value and success of the C3S relies on the data inputs and resulting data products to be 'certified' as fit-for-purpose, quality assured, fully traceable, adequately documented and provided in a timely and efficient manner. It requires an independent audit of uncertainties and evidence of its traceability to internationally-agreed standards (such as the SI units).

This project will establish the quality assurance framework to enable, for the first time, all of these criteria to be met.

The concepts of data quality assurance and traceability are not new, although the systematic implementation of them for Earth Observation is far from being achieved. The Centre for Carbon Measurement at NPL, supported by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA), has been a leading partner for a number of global initiatives, many stemming from Europe, that address the ongoing challenges surrounding environmental data quality.

These initiatives range from those targeting a top-down approach, for example by working with the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and Group on Earth Observations to establish the Quality Assurance for Earth Observation (QA4EO) framework. This provides the guiding principles and strategies to help ensure long-term confidence in the accuracy and quality of climate data globally.

Derived from these initiatives are dedicated projects, such as MetEOC, FIDUCEO, QA4ECV, GAIA-CLIM of the European Union, and ESA's FRM4STS and FRM4SOC, which each aim to reduce uncertainties for the measurement of different Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) and their applications. Through these projects, NPL and its partners are leading the work in providing the fundamental metrology (measurement science) needed to establish and deliver globally-accepted quality assurance for a wide range of increasingly important climate applications.

A central theme throughout these projects has been the importance of taking metrology back to first principles all along the supply chain of data: from the design of the instrument, to uncertainties during retrieval, and finally its processing into biogeophysical parameters (e.g. ECVs) for use by a variety of end-users. This novel approach ensures consistency throughout and is the basis of the framework being delivered for the C3S.

The C3S Evaluation and Quality Control for Observations project is a two-year project that will ensure the data made available to global end-users across academia, government and industry has been assessed to be of climate quality and with 'fitness-for-purpose' metrics that can be interpreted in a user-friendly manner.

With the ECMWF, C3S and other key climate science expertise being based in the UK, and by leading this commercially-funded project, the UK is demonstrating its global leadership in ensuring the quality of climate data.  Clear understanding in the confidence that can be attributed to the data is the key enabler which will facilitate the UK economy to fully exploit the growth potential of the burgeoning climate services sector and will ensure that UK policy-makers and risk critical sectors can take early-user advantage of the information.

Find out more about the Centre for Carbon Measurement at NPL

Contact: Nigel Fox

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Last Updated: 10 Jan 2017
Created: 22 Nov 2016

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