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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  2013  /  October 2013  /  UCL Geography Earth Observation team at ESA's Living Planet Meeting

UCL Geography Earth Observation team at ESA's Living Planet Meeting

An exciting week in Edinburgh

UCL Geography Earth Observation team at ESA's Living Planet Meeting

Several of UCL Geography's Earth Observation Group visited the European Space Agency (ESA) Living Planet Symposium in Edinburgh from 9-13 September (

Around 1700 people from all over the world attended to showcase the latest results from ESA missions and programs, and listen to keynotes from, among others, David Willets MP, the UK Minister of State for Universities and Science.

UCL Geography was represented by Professor Philip Lewis, Dr Mat Disney, Dr José Gomez-Dans and Dr Emily Lines. Lewis presented his vision of a data assimilation system for combining observations from multiple satellites to radically improve our ability to see the surface - even in Scotland! This work is ongoing, funded by ESA (see with Emily helping to make this vision a reality.

During the meeting, ESA also showcased UCL work to generate global albedo products from multiple satellites. See: and UCL news:

Albedo, the reflectivity of the Earth's surface, is a critical parameter in understanding climate, and the Globalbedo product, developed by Lewis with UCL colleague Professor Jan-Peter Muller (Mullard Space Science Laboratory), is now being used by organisations such as the Met Office to improve their forecasts.

José presented new results of applying similar data assimilation techniques to detecting the impact of fires, and showed that this could significantly improve the ability to measure fire impacts, and the impacts of change more generally. Fires are a key uncertainty in current understanding of the global carbon cycle, and satellite observations have the potential to reduce this uncertainty.

Mat presented results from the ESA 3D Veglab project which is developing new 3D modelling tools for simulating what the land surface looks like. See: The project is providing open source tools and datasets to allow researchers to conduct 'what if' experiments to explore the capabilities of future satellites, and develop new methods to exploit this potential fully.

Overall, an exciting week, capturing a huge range of the science to which UCL Geography researchers are contributing.



A 1:10 scale model of the ESA ENVISAT satellite, with an image of Edinburgh in the background