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S4C unveils cutting-edge climate services

News  |  07 July, 2020  |  Reading time: 8 minutes
Two innovative demonstrators aimed at illustrating cutting-edge climate services to two very different audiences were unveiled at the June meeting of Space4Climate group.

Both Earth observation-based demonstrators have drawn on expertise from within the group in collaboration with specific users and illustrate the broad range of strategic decisions supported by climate data from space.

The Climate Risk Disclosure Demonstrator shows how multiple sources of trusted global data can be brought together and made relevant to Britain’s financial sector to support crucial sustainable finance and responsible investment decisions.

The Peatland Climate Impact demonstrator is the successful outcome of Britain’s Got EO Climate Talent, an open competition run by Space4Climate (S4C) in summer 2019 and won by Prof Fred Worrall of the University of Durham.

Climate Risk Disclosure demonstrator

There is increasing pressure on the financial sector to ensure that investments take into account the changing climate when assessing risk. An event Space4Climate ran with the London Climate Change Partnership (LCCP) at FutureBuild in March highlighted the urgent need for trustworthy sources of climate data for climate risk disclosure. In response, Space4Climate set up a Climate Risk Disclosure Task Group to develop this platform. It showcases the wide range of high-quality, open access climate data and the variety of bespoke data-derived products and services available to inform and support climate action.

The demonstrator provides an overview of baseline climate satellite data, extremes and climate risk indexes with examples of data analytics and decision support services. Climate data from space can be combined with other data and mathematical models to enhance their usefulness in making climate-informed financial decisions including:

  • Stress-testing of investments
  • Climate risk disclosure
  • Green investment and nature-based solutions (such as renewable energy, infrastructure, agriculture, natural flood management, water and food security)
  • Investment in climate action.

It also features examples of European and global tools providing historical analysis and enabling stress-testing under the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) climate change scenarios.

The demonstrator has been designed with and for users in the financial sector regardless of whether they have technical knowledge of Earth observation (EO). It can be used to access data on a global, continental, national or even local scale relating to many of the 54 parameters (known as Essential Climate Variables – ECVs) that are used to monitor our climate system.

The platform explores how a combination of satellite data, in situ and modelled open (free to access) data, reanalyses, multi-hazard exposure, vulnerability and risk modelling can provide new, reliable information for the financial services community, including actuaries. This includes climate indexes that reveal information on the changing frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events including temperature, precipitation, wind power, sea level and agricultural conditions in specific regions or globally over long periods of time and in a consistent manner.

Briony Turner, S4C’s Climate Services Development Manager, explains: “Through this new platform users can explore for themselves Assimila’s climate index demonstrator i that enables them to interrogate reanalysis data on temperature, precipitation and wind power for Europe and the United States from 1979-2019 to inform creation of their own climate indexes.

“During scoping actuaries said they were interested in more than just the weather variable means; they wanted the platform to reveal the tails of the distributions, where the real actuarial risk lies – in their terms, above the 90th and below the 10th percentile. It has been designed so that users can self-navigate through the demonstrator and we would be grateful for any feedback.”

The demonstrator covers data from various European sources, including the prestigious European Space Agency (ESA) Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Open Data Portal and Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).

S4C member Dr Zofia Stott presented the demonstrator to an audience of S4C members and guests from leading UK financial organisations. She said:

“The UK is very much involved in using these satellite data systems to create very large, self-consistent data sets with known uncertainties contributing to European and global programmes. A lot of data is available free of charge to everyone. With the right expertise it is ready to be exploited to create added value climate services. Not only does the UK have the industrial expertise, it is underpinned by scientific expertise and expert quality assurance.”

Dr Sophia Burke, of AmbioTEK, who collated the information-added services for the demonstrator, added: “Space data has the potential to contribute to a wide range of climate services such as King’s College London’s global catastrophe model Eco:Actuary, Acclimatise’s heat-mapping tool, 4 Earth Intelligence’s Heat Hazard Mapping service and Telespazio VEGA UK‘s EO4SD Rainfall Explorer.”

Prof John Remedios, Director of the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) said: “This demonstrator showcases how the world-leading expertise within the UK’s climate data community can provide the UK’s green and sustainable finance community with a cutting-edge climate service, putting high-quality climate data from space at their fingertips It is the first attempt to map the breadth of expertise the UK can offer for space-enabled green and climate-smart financial services.”

The next step is for a small group of financial sector representatives to test the demonstrator and give their feedback to the Space4Climate group. On July 3, 2020, it was presented to the Chartered Banking Institute.

Please email if you are interested in testing the demonstrator.

Peatland Climate Impact demonstrator

The winner of the first Space4Climate demonstrator competition, Prof Fred Worrall, Professor of Environmental Chemistry in Durham’s Department of Earth Sciences, partnered with Assimila’s team to develop his concept for a tool to monitor the health and restoration of peatlands.

In turn, the Space4Climate group has been able to learn from some of the barriers that Fred faced in finding and accessing the data that met his needs and this will inform a new signposting service that is being developed.

The Peatland Climate Impact Demonstrator uses satellite imagery to identify functioning peatlands, which show as cold, humid ‘islands’ of land, and damaged peatlands which show as a dry, dark, warm surface. The reason these precious pockets of natural habitat are so important is that they mitigate against our warming climate. Damaged peatlands emit the greenhouse gases which are so harmful to our environment; thriving peatlands act as a carbon sink, absorbing the gases.

Space4Climate was able to introduce Fred to the National Trust which is committed to restoring and protecting England’s peatlands and is keen to explore how Earth observation can support their work.

The demonstrator is effectively a data cube – multiple layers of data relating to specific locations, available as timeseries. It has been produced as a Jupyter Notebook. Users can zoom in on a specific area, such as the Peak District, draw a box around the land they are interested in, set date parameters and download data at a resolution of 1km filtered by time and space parameters.

The first scientific test case for the demonstrator was to examine Saddleworth Moor, comparing before and after the huge fire which raged for weeks in 2018, and its recovery which has since become a cause célèbre for peatland restoration.

Space4Climate group members provided expertise in kind and the UK Space Agency provided funding to meet the cost of the additional resources needed to develop the demonstrator.

Space4Climate’s Dr Claire MacIntosh, of NCEO, says: “Fred was able to realise his winning idea through working with Space4Climate. EO data can be complicated, not always easy to access and there are difficulties around handling it. Our group can support innovators to find the right partners along the whole space supply chain of climate data from space.

“Once you have built a demonstrator like this it not only reduces the barriers to space-enabled environmental research for that end-user but also for users with related interests; with minimal modifications other climate services can be built on the same processes.

“For me, that has been really key – other people doing similar things, such as urban heat island studies, are able to benefit from this demonstrator and we have been able to benefit by understanding where groups of users might benefit from a single targeted approach.”

The next steps are for potential users – such as the National Trust – to test the demonstrator and then to explore the opportunity to scale it up and to exploit the data accessibility advantages to do new scientific research.

If you are interested in testing this demonstrator, please email

UK Space Agency update

The Space4Climate group meeting heard from the UK Space Agency that the first 1st National Space Council meeting is expected to take place in late-July, highlighting cross Government interest in the UK Space Sector including our world-leading expertise in exploiting space capabilities for climate and environmental monitoring and action.

The UK Space Agency is leading cross-Government work to develop a National Space Strategy for the Council to consider and the Space4Climate community is well-placed to provide expert, direct input to the development of this.