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Sentinel-2 sets new standards for land monitoring

15 December 2016

The Sentinel-2 satellite of the Copernicus Programme is proving to benefit land and urban monitoring, with its high resolution and repetitive coverage.

Monitoring and mitigating the environmental consequences of uncontrolled land use, while sustaining the production of essential resources, is a major priority for policy-makers around the world.

The Copernicus Land Monitoring Service, coordinated by the European Environment Agency (EEA) for its European component, gathers data and produces assessments on a wide range of topics related to the environment, providing land cover information to users in the field of environmental applications.

Satellite data, such as those provided through the Copernicus Programme, are fundamental for environmental knowledge. Satellite measurements improve environmental monitoring, leading to more evidence-based policy and, ultimately, better environmental management.

The EEA benefits from these data in many ways, from applications that monitor Europe's changing urban environment, to the studies on pressures and impacts on a wide range of wildlife habitats, to the assessment of the increasing fragmentation of the European landscape and of the climate change impacts, among others.

The pan-European High Resolution Imperviousness Layer (HRL) , an important dataset of the Pan-European Land Monitoring Service component, aims to provide insight in location, spatial pattern and dynamics of soil sealing across Europe, not least into urban development. Through the repetitive generation of the product, every three years, issues like urban sprawl and habitat fragmentation can be monitored.

So far (2006, 2009 and 2012), a limited number of coverages made by SPOT, IRS-P6, Resourcesat-2 and RapidEye satellites were available. For the 2015 update, in addition to the SPOT-5 and Resourcesat-2 images provided by the Copernicus Contributing Missions, Sentinel-2 was used for gap filling thanks to its launch date on 23 June 2015.

As of 2017, Sentinel-2 is expected to be the main source of imagery.

Technical Director of GeoVille, Dr Juergen Weichselbaum, says: "Sentinel-2 offers a new capacity for timely monitoring of built-up changes, imperviousness and other critical environmental change processes, thanks to its high spatial resolution and repetitive large-area coverages.

"In combination with new analytical frameworks and our advanced algorithms for time series data mining, we expect the Sentinel-2 data streams to become a game-changer for future Copernicus Land Monitoring Services and new high-resolution applications at global scale."

About the Sentinels

The Sentinels are a fleet of dedicated EU-owned satellites, designed to deliver the wealth of data and imagery that are central to Europe's Copernicus environmental programme.

In partnership with EU Member States, the European Commission leads and coordinates this programme, to improve the management of the environment, safeguarding lives every day. ESA is in charge of the space component, responsible for developing the family of Copernicus Sentinel satellites and ensuring the flow of data for the Copernicus services, while the operations of the Sentinels have been entrusted to ESA and EUMETSAT.

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