31 August 2018
With much of Europe recently subjected to a prolonged heatwave and lack of rain, brown was certainly the trending colour this summer. While cooler air and rain have now returned to northwest Europe, turning some of the landscape back to the more usual hues of green, these satellite images show how the hot dry weather took its toll on vegetation. And, as it is World Water Week, these images serve as a reminder of how important water is, even in this part of the world.
These images from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 missions show how this summer's weather affected the landscape in the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Luxembourg. Farmers from Ireland to the Baltics lost crops and struggled to feed livestock as a result of the unusual weather. Wildfires broke out in the UK, Sweden and Germany, for example, leading to evacuations. The moorland fire near Manchester in the UK has caused lasting damage where seedbeds will take years to recover and also destroyed wildlife habitats.
The two Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellites carry high-resolution multispectral optical imagers to monitor changes in vegetation. The mission offers measurements of leaf area index, leaf chlorophyll and leaf water content, which allow for a detailed assessment of plant health. The mission can be used for emergency mapping and for assessing damage such as that caused by fire. The Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission carries multiple instruments and as well as delivering key information to monitor the oceans, it can also be used to monitor the health of our land.
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When we think of climate change, one of the first things to come to mind is melting polar ice. However, ice loss isn't just restricted to the polar regions. According to research published today, glaciers around the world have lost well over 9000 gigatonnes (nine trillion tonnes) of ice since 1961.