GOCE: Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer launched 2009-back to earth late 2013

contribute to improved climate models by providing new knowledge on how gravity affects ocean circulation and sea level. provide a new understanding of Earth's interior, including magma distribution under volcanoes, thereby improving our knowledge of tectonic movements and seismic hazards. underpin a worldwide height system, supporting applications such as construction, planning and surveying as well as providing a reference sea-surface combination with other data sets, improve estimates of the thickness and mass of the polar ice sheets, crucial witnesses of climate change effects.

SMOS: Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity-launched 2009

For optimum results, SMOS will measure microwave radiation emitted from Earth's surface within the L-band (1.4 GHz) using an interferometric radiometer. Moisture and salinity decrease the emissivity of soil and seawater respectively, and thereby affect microwave radiation emitted from the surface of the Earth. Interferometry measures the phase difference between electromagnetic waves at two or more receivers, which are a known distance apart – the baseline. The value of these data was grasped first in the fields of agriculture and water management – to estimate food availability and track desertification processes – then more recently in wider terms of the water cycle to benefit weather forecasting and climatology. Soil dampness influences regional weather patterns, while sea saltiness is a major driver of ocean currents.

CryoSat: Launched 2009

Synthetic Aperture Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL). Previous radar altimeters had been optimised for operations over the ocean and land, but SIRAL is the first sensor of its kind designed for ice, measuring changes at the margins of vast ice sheets and floating ice in polar oceans. The radar altimeter is not only able to detect tiny variations in the height of the ice but it can also measure sea level with an unprecedented accuracy. Small, local phenomena in the ocean surface like eddies can be detected and analysed. Taking CryoSat a step further, scientists have discovered that the altimetry readings have the potential to map sea level closer to the coast, and even greater capabilities to profile land surfaces and inland water targets such as small lakes, rivers and their intricate tributaries.

SWARM: earth magnetic field-launched 2013

Swarm is ESA's first constellation of satellites to advance our understanding of how Earth works. Harnessing European and Canadian technological excellence, the three Swarm satellites will measure precisely the magnetic signals that stem from Earth's core, mantle, crust and oceans, as well as its ionosphere and magnetosphere.


Aeolus: (2015?) atmospheric dynamics laser, winds analysis

ADM-Aeolus is the first space mission to acquire profiles of the wind on a global scale. These near-realtime observations will improve the accuracy of numerical weather and climate prediction and advance our understanding of tropical dynamics and processes relevant to climate variability.

EarthCare: (2016?):Earth Clouds Aerosols& Radiation for Clouds
Currently, clouds and aerosols are the biggest uncertainty in our understanding of the atmospheric conditions that drive the climate system. An improved understanding and better modelling of the relationship of clouds, aerosols and radiation is therefore amongst the highest priorities in climate research and weather prediction. For this purpose, global data on cloud and aerosol occurrence, structure and physical properties together with collocated measurements of solar and thermal radiation are required. By acquiring vertical profiles of clouds and aerosols, as well as the radiance's at the top of the atmosphere, EarthCARE aims to address these issues. The mission will employ high-performance Lidar and radar technology that has never been flown in space before. This advanced technology will be used to make global observations of the vertical structure of clouds and aerosols at the same time as taking measurements of radiation.

Biomass: (2020) Carbon forest biomass, subsurface geology in semi-arid and arid regions
Biomass aims to take measurements of forest biomass to assess terrestrial carbon stocks and fluxes. The mission employs a novel P-band synthetic aperture polarimetric radar operating at 435 MHz and a 6 MHz bandwidth. In addition to valuable data on forest biomass, the choice of radar sensor means that the mission could also provide new information on ice-sheet thickness and internal structures in cold regions, subsurface geology in arid regions, as well as data on soil moisture, permafrost and sea-surface salinity.

To be decided

FLEX (fluorescence mission for vegetation health etc) and CarbonSat

The CarbonSat mission: Would quantify and monitor the distribution of two of the most important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, also released through human activity: carbon dioxide and methane. Data from the mission would lead to a better understanding of the sources and sinks of these two gases and how they are linked to climate change.

The FLEX mission: aims to provide global maps of vegetation fluorescence, which can be converted into an indicator of photosynthetic activity. These data would improve our understanding of how much carbon is stored in plants and their role in the carbon and water cycles.