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Earth observation, climate and optical

Quality assurance and traceability of climate data

Providing the confidence needed to make climate data actionable

The volume of environmental and, in particular, Earth observation data from space has grown rapidly in recent years, as has the number of providers. This has fuelled the development of new services and applications to meet the needs of governments and organisations, large and small. These 'users' seek information they can trust, delivered on demand. This need can only be met through the synergistic combination of data from many sensors and from many providers.

NPL is enabling this interoperability through development of quality assurance (QA) systems, tools and guidance so that understandable quality metrics can be made readily available to all users in a consistent and internationally-harmonised manner. Our scientists are developing strategies and methods to assign uncertainties throughout all stages of the development of an information product to ensure that users can interpret the evidence in a fair manner. This is particularly important for climate change studies, but also increasingly to improve agricultural productivity and mitigate against health issues.

Traceability of Earth observation data

In the context of traceable satellite product, the chain of steps taken from the satellite raw data to the user geophysical product needs to be understood. For each step of a processing chain, the result of that step (and the associated uncertainties) should be demonstrably linked to the output of the previous processing step.

At NPL, we are working to develop the traceability of in situ sensor and satellite-derived products through ongoing research into uncertainty analysis and propagation through processing algorithms. For example, one of the aims of QA4ECV is to understand how these elements may be enhanced in existing algorithms.

Quality assurance

The provision of reliable, high quality information on the development of biophysical products, for example sea surface temperature, enables end users to make informed decisions regarding the fitness-for-purpose of the data for their application. Tools, methods, data and procedures employed in the development of biophysical products are assessed. Provision of such information in a uniform and useful manner can be achieved through the implementation of robust QA frameworks.

We are focusing on QA for Earth observation (EO) for Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) and for carbon monitoring. NPL is also the secretariat for the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Quality Assurance for Earth Observation (QA4EO) framework, making it well-positioned to design and implement effective QA systems for EO.

To develop effective systems which suit the needs of the community, the requirements of both the generators and the users of satellite-derived biophysical products need to be understood. We are working to understand the requirements of the users, engaging with them to determine the types of QA information they require and how they would use that information.

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