Invading space to take control of our climate and environment
ENVIRONMENT visits the Astrium space laboratory, to look at high tech satellites that are designed to observe and report specifically on the environment, part of a new fleet that it is hoped will help man predict and react to changes taking place on earth.
In the 1970s the Nasa satellite Nimbus allowed humanity to see that there was a hole in the ozone. Since then a battery of satellites have been sent into outer space and round the clock vision of our world is now possible with some satellites being made specifically to observe the environment: examining melting glaciers and changes in land quality.
What’s more, satellites can increasingly be called into play after natural disasters, helping rescue workers find their way in radically changed landscapes. "The latest example was in Haiti, where we produced maps right after the earthquake, the goal was to give better information as to what roads remained open and could be travelled on, We also pointed out areas where there's a risk of landslides...combining all the information from the satellite images can show us zones that would or would not be suitable for temporary shelters," notes Gilles Denis of Infoterra notes.
Meanwhile outside of the exceptional scenarios and large-scale climate watch, on a local level satellites are helping farmers adapt to changes in land quality. They allow farmers to see clearly the patches of land that are drying out or lacking in minerals, meaning a targeted and minimal use of fertilisers, which is both good economically and environmentally.
While satellites are become all the more efficient at surveying the environment other geoengineering tools are being developed to help man take control. These include ideas such as using giant space mirrors to reflect the suns heat or fertilizing our oceans with iron in order to soak up CO2 and keep temperatures within a liveable range.