Photo credit  |  Output of EO analysis on the Earth Blox map interface

STRATA: UNEP’s Earth Stress Monitor

Climate services, Data infrastructure, Earth Blox, Quosient Ltd  |  20 January, 2021  |  Reading time: 4 minutes

Earth Blox is a commercial cloud-based planetary-scale mapping tool that provides access to the power of Earth Observation (EO), removing the need for coding, high performance computing, extensive local storage, and delivering geospatial intelligence. Earth Blox helps users save time by eliminating repetitive manual tasks and increases confidence in decision making by harnessing numerous datasets.

The United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) STRATA platform, powered by Earth Blox, supports the UN’s need to determine where environmental and climate stresses are converging and contributing to increased risk of maladaptation, fragility, migration, and conflict. Earth Blox is co-designing, with end users, an environment and climate system using a combination of global EO data, thematic geospatial data and cloud computing.

Application

STRATA is being delivered through a collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (opens in a new tab), the University of Edinburgh (opens in a new tab), and Earth Blox (opens in a new tab). The tool will assist over 130 UN country teams integrate environment and climate stressors into horizon scanning and early warning mechanisms for conflict prevention, risk reduction and resilience-building. The objectives of STRATA are to easily and rapidly understand:

  1. where the convergence of environmental stressors is occurring around the planet
  2. how and why the intensity of these “hotspots” is changing over time/space
  3. where these hotspots could interact with other social and economic variables to increase the risk of fragility, social conflict, migration or maladaptation.

The outputs of the index will be used by over 130 UN country teams in the field to integrate environment and climate stressors into horizon scanning and early warning mechanisms, as well as conflict prevention, risk reduction and resilience-building measures. Ultimately, it will help identify and prioritize ecosystems and resource-dependent livelihoods that require improved management and restoration in order to reduce potential risks. The index will feed directly into the UN Common Country Analysis (CCA) processes as well as UN Development Cooperation Frameworks as part of the on-going UN Reform process. It will also be used as an input to the World Bank fragility analysis, for the EU Global Conflict Risk Index and for the UN Climate Security Mechanism.

The project is one of the 32 selected as part of the GEO – Google Earth Engine Program (opens in a new tab) that provides funding to tackle environmental and social challenges using open Earth data. The system uses Quosient’s innovative user-friendly interface (Earth Blox) that allows greater customisation by the user.

UK expertise

Earth Blox is a Scottish SME led by EO experts from the University of Edinburgh. Earth Blox has a mission to ease access to advanced geospatial analyses for positive global change – addressing the sustainable development goals, climate change, deforestation, urban expansion, and large-scale disaster mapping.

Insight

David Jensen, Head of the Environmental Peacebuilding Programme

“This is version 4+++ of what’s available on the market.” – David Jensen, Head of the Environmental Peacebuilding Programme, speaking about Earth Blox

Professor Iain Woodhouse, Professor and Personal Chair of Applied Earth Observation from the School of GeoSciences

The University of Edinburgh is leveraging Earth Blox’s environment and climate system to demonstrate the value of the EO discipline and its different applications. Professor and Personal Chair of Applied Earth Observation from the School of GeoSciences, Professor Iain Woodhouse, explains that:

“Earth Blox is an engaging, introductory tool to EO, providing analysis-ready data for entry-level students who do not need to learn specialised coding. I am now using it in my teaching and I am excited about the new developments, such as comments and tooltips on the blocks, which is good for students.”

Genevieve Patenaude, CEO of Earth Blox

Final comments from CEO of Earth Blox, Genevieve Patenaude…

“The downstream EO sector still lacks diversity: one needs deep domain expertise, coding skills or a hefty budget to subcontract those skills. Everyone everywhere addressing the Sustainable Development Goals should be able to benefit from satellite intelligence effortlessly. This is what drives us to deliver a cloud-based, code-free solutions-builder as simple as ‘Lego for EO intelligence’.”