Harnessing Earth Observation for Climate Change Solutions

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During last year’s Living Planet Symposium – an event organized by the European Space Agency  devoted to the Earth Observation and remote sensing (the use of satellite technologies to gather imaging data about the Earth’s characteristics – land, sea and atmosphere), we caught up with Andrea Marinoni from UiT The Arctic University of Norway to better understand how IMPETUS is harnessing data from space to gain new insights into climate change management and adaptation, with a focus on the Arctic region.

Using Earth Observation to find climate adaptation pathways

Remote sensing (satellite data) emerges as a linchpin in the IMPETUS project. It has a critical role in wide area coverage, frequent data collection, and providing vital information for environmental monitoring, risk assessment, and decision-making processes related to climate change.

More specifically, an important part of the data that IMPETUS relies upon comes from the Sentinel Constellation, a crucial component of the Copernicus program managed by the European Space Agency. These satellites cover a myriad of characteristics on Earth and offer open and accessible datasets essential for global environmental monitoring.

The data gathered from earth observation supports the development of the IMPETUS adaptation pathways. These pathways are portfolios of measures and decisions designed to address climate change in diverse regions. At the same time IMPETUS also goes to great efforts to integrate data from stakeholders, local communities, and various risk assessment models.

Arctic Significance: A Living Lab for Climate Solutions

The Arctic plays a pivotal role as a living lab for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Changes in the Arctic reverberate globally, making it an invaluable region for studying the far-reaching impacts of climate change.

Aided by our partners at UIT among others,  IMPETUS looks to extract information from multiple datasets to enhance our understanding of climate change and improve decision-making processes.

The specific challenges IMEPTUS wants to tackle in the artic region are related to oceanographic variables affecting sea level rise, landslides, avalanches, and debris flow as well as the impact of climate change on fish productivity and harmful algae blooms.

IMPETUS: Bridging science and society

The success of IMPETUS will be measured by the degree to which its tools, processes, and methods are adopted at the administration level across different European regions. The institutionalization of these measures is a key point for long-term success.

Local communities, like those located in the Arctic as well as in the other demo sites, play a pivotal role in IMPETUS – their feedback and engagement are essential for co-creating effective climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

Thankfully, as reported by Andrea Marinoni, we are witnessing a growing interest in climate change adaptation and mitigation beyond the scientific community which will help bridge the gap between scientific advancements and the practical needs of local populations.

Watch the interview with Andrea Marinoni below:


High temperatures

Record-breaking summertime temperatures have been recorded in the Netherlands in recent years. With global temperatures rising, such extreme weather events will occur more often, and for longer periods. Prolonged high temperatures, with warm nights as well as hot days, can cause heat stress* and related health issues, particularly among city populations.

*Heat stress occurs when the human body cannot get rid of excess heat and can impact wellbeing through conditions such as heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps and rashes.

"We want to enable municipality decision makers who are working on spatial developments to identify heat stress 'hot spots' and cool areas, analyse the future effects of climate change, and model the effect of different heat stress-reducing measures. The tool must provide them with an easy starting point to integrate heat stress risks in their projects."


Despite the cooling effect of the sea in the region of Zeeland, the growing risk of heat stress has become a concern.

Elderly and other vulnerable people are more impacted by the effects of prolonged heat, which can cause headaches, dizziness, insomnia and other health issues – even death. Excess temperatures also affect general comfort and liveability of cities. Water quality can be reduced, both for drinking and swimming, and infrastructure can be affected. Buildings and concrete surfaces trap heat, potentially leading to damage, and release it during the night, keeping temperatures warm.

During heat waves, it is important that everyone has access to a cool and comfortable place. Appropriate spatial planning can help to decrease and deal with heat stress. Environmental factors like water bodies, trees, and shade have a major impact on stress caused by high temperatures. Therefore, planting trees, removing concrete surfaces, creating green roofs and cool spaces can improve our comfort and health. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for city planning to address these needs.


Flood risk

By 2050, sea-level within this region is predicted to rise by 15-40 cm, with more frequent extreme weather and more (severe) storms triggered by climate change. These changes will exacerbate the natural risk of flooding in the IMPETUS ‘Atlantic’ region, because it is surrounded by rivers and the sea, and is below sea level.

*Risk takes into account two aspects; the chance that an event will occur and the negative impact of such an event once it occurs. When there is a low chance that an event will occur, but its impacts are huge, the risk is still significant.

“In the Netherlands, an extensive system of dikes protects us against sea and river flooding. We have always put our faith in this defence and focused almost solely on flood prevention. However, pressure on our system will increase with climate change and rising sea levels. To adapt and maintain a safe living environment, we should develop other safety measures, like more robust spatial planning and contingency plans."


Rotterdam city, is located in Rijnmond – ‘mouth of the Rhine’. The Rhine river flows through this densely populated area and characterises the region. Protections such as sea dikes and storm surge barriers have been constructed to protect the region, but flooding still occurs.

People living in the city are accustomed to seeing smaller floods. The changing climate affects the interplay between rainfall, river levels and sea storms, increasing the flooding risk. Water levels could rise by a few metres, even in populated areas, with potentially massive impacts. 

Mitigation measures such as storm surge barriers reduce the chance that high water reaches the city, but to minimise the impact of floods when they do occur, adaptation strategies are also needed. A city that can adapt to be safe from floods must be carefully designed. How best to design such an adaptive city?

Critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and evacuation routes, must be accessible at all times. Planning how to best protect them, homes and lives is complex. Flood water behaves in a complex way and flood risks show strong spatial variations. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for adaptive city planning. 


Energy and waste water

To become climate-neutral by 2050, climate mitigation* efforts are crucial in our strategy for how to deal with climate change. Reducing our energy consumption is a significant mitigation step. In the Netherlands, 15% of energy is consumed in the Rijnmond area around the port of Rotterdam, in large part by a major petrochemical industry cluster.

*Climate mitigation encompasses measures such as technologies, processes, or practices that reduce carbon emissions or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.


The Rotterdam port petrochemical industry cluster is Europe’s largest. It consumes 70% of the Rijnmond region’s energy. A large part of this energy is wasted (64%, 203 petajoules). More than half of that energy is lost with wastewater. In addition, most energy processes within these industries rely on fossil fuels, which has a significant impact on the climate.

Energy use must be minimised and fossil fuels should be replaced by renewable sources if climate change is to be mitigated. Electrification of processes opens up the possibility to use more renewable energy and can greatly impact decarbonisation. Recovering wasted heat would significantly reduce energy consumption and is a first step towards a more circular industry. 

Supporting industries in a transition towards climate-neutrality depends on identifying how best to reduce their carbon footprint without sacrificing production or performance. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is creating a digital tool that supports decision making about pathways towards an effective energy transition for EU industry.