National Physical Laboratory

Traceable Earth observations

In late 2010 NPL started work to consider the measurement traceability of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Earth Observation activities.

Artist's impression of ESA's Sentinel-3 Earth Observation satellite (Courtesy of ESA - J Huart, 2008)
Artist's impression of ESA's Sentinel-3 Earth Observation
satellite (courtesy of ESA - J Huart, 2008)

ESA contracted NPL to undertake an analysis of current and future missions to identify any further supporting activities that would be needed to be consistent with the newly emerging international Quality Assurance guidelines: QA4EO (Quality Assurance Framework for Earth Observation).

The multi-mission analysis takes some case studies and starts from the 'level 2' products (e.g. geophysical data products such as information about amount of chlorophyll) and spans backwards to the satellite sensor through the full development cycle including models, algorithms and post-launch calibration and validation activities.

This work will help demonstrate the value and benefits of a harmonised approach to quality assurance and facilitate increased awareness and the broad uptake of QA4EO amongst the European Earth Observation community, industrial and academic, through case studies based on ESA's flagship Earth Observation satellites of the future.

The core principle of QA4EO is that all Earth Observation data products should have associated with them an indicator of their quality to enable users to assess its suitability for their application - 'fitness for purpose'. The quality indicator should itself be based on a documented and quantifiable assessment of evidence (throughout the process chain) demonstrating the level of traceability to internationally agreed (where possible SI) reference standards.

This initial project will not allow for a full evaluation of all sensors and products but should give an indication to ESA of any immediate priority issues where resource should be focussed. It also provides further opportunity for NPL to support any necessary remedial actions.

Find out more about NPL's environment / climate research

Contact: Nigel Fox

Last Updated: 12 Apr 2012
Created: 6 Jan 2011

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