The Copernicus Climate Change Service

By Else Swinnen 30 March 2017
Understanding our planet and the impact of climate change: a vexing question for several years now. How is Europe actually facing climate change and its impact? To take necessary actions and measurements, policymakers and public authorities need reliable and up-to-date information. Information on how our planet and climate are changing. This is why the European Union set up the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).

Remote sensing as a driver to develop EU information services

Copernicus is the EU’s Earth observation programme. It addresses six thematic areas, one of which is the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). With an ever-growing global population, our planet is suffering the consequences of human-induced climate change. To mitigate the effects we need to act now. The European Commission is investing millions in Earth-observation programmes. Thanks to these programmes various remote sensing techniques are being developed. Techniques and solutions that are necessary for gathering, combining and analysing various types of Earth-observation data and climate indicators to identify the drivers, and to forecast the expected impact.

Climate information about past, current and future states

Via the C3S online service portal, users will have access to information that assists in monitoring and predicting climate change, and that will therefore help to support adaptation and mitigation. The C3S service portal combines climate observations with the latest scientific methods to develop, quality-assured information about past, current and future states of the climate in Europe and worldwide.VITO Remote Sensing has more than 20 years of experience in the production and analysis of global time series. In the Copernicus Climate Change Service, VITO Remote Sensing, together with the consortium partners, is responsible for delivering long-term series of global data on three Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) to the Climate Data Store (CDS). These ECVs are: Leaf Area Index (LAI), the fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation (fAPAR) and surface albedo. The Climate Data Records (CDRs) cover a period of more than 35 years, stretching from 1981 to the present.


Copernicus Global Land Service at the base of C3S

The starting point of the CDRs are the LAI, fAPAR and surface albedo data set delivered in the framework of the Copernicus Global Land Service. Within the framework of the C3S contract, we extend this data set to the past, with observations from NOAA-AVHRR, and we adjust the existing products to meet the requirements of the climate service, e.g. by adding information on the per-pixel uncertainty.

First European system to address climate change pre-operational by the end of 2017

When the first C3S General Assembly took place in Toulouse, France from 6-10 March this year, all C3S partners gathered to discuss latest developments and shaped future actions. By the end of 2017 the Copernicus Climate Change service will enter a pre-operational stage. The service will be fully operational for end-users worldwide within a year of that.

For more information on Copernicus Climate Change Service and VITO Remote Sensing’s contribution, feel free to contact us at or visit the C3S website


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Else Swinnen
An article by
Else Swinnen
R&D Project Manager
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