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Copernicus Sentinels assist in monitoring and management of Finland’s waters

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In countries like Finland—where the large amount of water bodies would imply enormous associated costs for authorities to use traditional monitoring methods across the entire nation—the use of satellite data are particularly helpful.

Within the framework of the 'Copernicus Sentinels Benefits Study' (SeBS), which is funded by the EU and ESA, Copernicus Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 data are being used to monitor Finland's water bodies.

These measurements allow the environmental institute of Finland and regional environmental agencies, known as ELY Centres, to monitor the quality of water in lakes throughout their region to a degree that would not be possible using traditional in-situ water sampling and testing.

ELY Centres are located in each of the regions of Finland, which use SYKE’s (the Finnish Institute for the Environment) service as part of their lake quality management responsibilities and for reporting to national/international level entities. They also share the information on lake water quality on their TAARKA websites.

TARKKA-gallery observations of lake Enäjärvi

Sentinel data from the European Union’s Copernicus Programme is helping authorities to improve water quality at a lower cost, which in turn boosts the condition of life for citizens, aids in the protection of biodiversity and helps to ensure environmental sustainability.

Sentinel data help regional authorities and the Finnish environmental institute to monitor the lakes more effectively, more frequently and more comprehensively.

Offered through a publicly available platform, the Sentinel data enable better informed economic and leisure activities and lake ecosystems are better protected. The associated benefits are important and will grow significantly in the next five to ten years.

Copernicus Sentinel-2 provides free-of-charge frequent wide-swath, high-resolution multispectral imagery over Finland with 13 spectral bands, while Sentinel-3 provides complete, global, surface temperature measurements every 2 days, thanks to its Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) and also medium-resolution of surface reflectance thanks to its Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI).

Ministries of the Environment and of Agriculture and Forestry have access to better water quality information from ELY Centres, upon which they can base policy decisions, while the local communities benefit from improved environmental conditions as they enjoy leisure facilities in clean water.

The use of TARKKA outputs in the different districts varies. For instance, one of the common issues is the presence of fertilizers and other chemicals in the water coming from agriculture. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus in water can lead to algal bloom and especially to Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), which can be dangerous to wildlife and humans.

In this specific case, SYKE’s TARKKA service enables the regular monitoring of most lakes (greater than one hectare). In addition, it offers the possibility to go back in time to analyse the evolution of the algal bloom.

TARKKA images also help ELY Centres (together with SYKE) to communicate to the general public (through local newspapers or websites). This helps citizens to avoid going to infested lakes for recreational activities.

In order to prevent algal bloom in lakes, ELY centres and other authorities also take initiatives (e.g. use of gypsum) to limit the use of nutrient in nearby agriculture areas. Additionally, regional centres report to Ministries of Environment and of Agriculture and Forestry who have access to better information – thanks to satellite imagery – on which to base new policy decisions.

At the end of the value chain, citizens and society greatly benefit from better quality water and superior information.

Copernicus Sentinel-2 over Helsinki

Geoff Sawyer, Strategic Advisor to EARSC and leader of the Sentinel Benefits Study, states, "In a recent SeBS workshop on water quality, experts on both demand and supply sides agreed on the great benefits that can be obtained from the use of satellite-based monitoring of water bodies. This provides the game-changing capability to monitor a large number of lakes that is just not possible using traditional in-situ measurements."

The Sentinel Benefits Study (SeBS) analyses the benefits created through the use of data from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites. Led by EARSC on behalf of ESA and the EC, the SeBS team has analysed over 25 cases showcasing different uses and in different European countries.

All the studies and the latest news are available on the SeBS website ( including the full case on Water Quality Management in Finland.

Since 2016, the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service is also providing Inland Water Temperature and Inland Water Quality – Turbidity and Trophic State – products on a ten-daily basis, covering more than 4,000 Inland water bodies (lake and reservoirs) at global level. This includes the monitoring of major lakes in Europe.

About the Copernicus Sentinels

The Copernicus Sentinels are a fleet of dedicated EU-owned satellites, designed to deliver the wealth of data and imagery that are central to the European Union's Copernicus environmental programme. 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 on behalf of the European Union and ensuring the flow of data for the Copernicus services, while the operations of the Copernicus Sentinels have been entrusted to ESA and EUMETSAT.

Did you know that?

Earth observation data from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites are fed into the Copernicus Services. First launched in 2012, with the Land Monitoring and Emergency Management services, these services provide free and open support, in six different thematic areas.

The Copernicus Land Monitoring Service (CLMS) provides geographical information on land cover and its changes, land use, vegetation state, water cycle and Earth's surface energy variables to a broad range of users in Europe and across the World, in the field of environmental terrestrial applications.

It supports applications in a variety of domains such as spatial and urban planning, forest management, water management, agriculture and food security, nature conservation and restoration, rural development, ecosystem accounting and mitigation/adaptation to climate change.