AWS Public Sector Blog

Open Earth Observation Data for a Changing Planet

A guest post by Steven Ramage, Group on Earth Observations (GEO)

The environment is measured with precision through Earth Observation (EO) satellite and in-situ – and the global community is leveraging this investment by accessing the information for free. The Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), developed over the last decade, makes more than 200,000,000 open EO data resources accessible for better decisions on a range of areas from food security to protection of biodiversity, renewable energy and disaster resilience. With more than 150 data providers, an important element of GEOSS is a brokering framework called the GEO DAB (Discovery and Access Broker). The GEO DAB makes use of cloud IaaS and PaaS AWS capabilities including load balancing, DNS routing, auto-scaling, monitoring, elastic map reduce, storage, and computing.

Our changing planet is characterized every day by extreme weather events and increasing numbers of people vulnerable to the elements due to poor living conditions. With data becoming available in real time, wildfires can be identified and tracked and flooding can be predicted. Volcanoes and earthquakes have devastating consequences, but rescue missions can harness EO to speed up emergency response.

Fossil fuel energy use accounts for more than two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions and GEO is committed to increasing the global share of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, in combination with energy efficiency, to help limit a further rise in global temperature. GEO’s energy community portal developed in partnership with MINES ParisTech supports many renewable energy related programmes, including the ones from the European Commission H2020 and Copernicus programmes, and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Global Atlas for Renewable Energy project linked to the World Bank’s programmes for mapping renewable energy resources with EO data, ESMAP. Detailed information at high resolution that is broadly available allows improved cost estimates for governments or businesses looking to expand energy development.

Deforestation and forest degradation are the second leading cause of global warming, responsible for about 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The process of photosynthesis in plants takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, so there is a strong incentive to stop the destruction of forests. GEO’s Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI) is helping developing countries measure, report and verify forest areas and carbon stocks, critical not just for the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, also for the UN Agenda 2030.

The GEOSS evolution includes big data analytics to move from data sharing to information and knowledge generation and sharing, in particular to support the UN Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). GEO supports:

  • Sustainable Development Goal 2 (zero hunger) through its GEOGLAM crop monitors.
  • Goals 3 and 11 through activities for air quality.
  • Goal 6 on water through water quality analysis.
  • Goals 11 and 15 on land consumption and degradation by building developing better. approaches to generating Land Cover products.
  • Goals 14 and 15 on biodiversity and ecosystems by facilitating improved monitoring.
  • Above all, GEO is a global community and partnership and supports SDG Goal 17 of partnerships through its intergovernmental status.

GEO convenes providers and users of open EO data, aiming to highlight best practices and eliminate duplication of effort to harness the Data Revolution for the benefit of humanity. With the support of commercial sector leaders, such as Amazon, this mission is advanced.

Learn more about GEO and visit the where the 200m free and open resources reside.

Note: AWS has provided a research grant via the Cloud Credits for Research program to GEO to support their mission of connecting government institutions, academic and research institutions, data providers, businesses, engineers, scientists and experts to create innovative solutions to global challenges.