European Space Agency's new mission to expand climate knowledge
25 September 2019
A new European mission, the Far Infrared Radiation Understanding and Monitoring (FORUM) mission, will add a crucial step to broadening our understanding of Earth's climate change.
Measurements of the new aircraft will improve confidence in the accuracy of climate change assessments that form the basis for future policy decisions.
FORUM will record infrared radiation emitted from Earth to space – extending beyond the parts of the infrared spectrum currently being measured. The measurements will help study the Earth's radiation budget – the balance between radiation received, mainly from the Sun, at short wavelengths, and emitted radiation, which is a combination of reflected radiation from the Sun and radiation emitted by the Earth system, largely longer wavelengths. When the budget is not balanced, the temperature of the planet can change, with consequences for the climate. Human activities have transformed the atmosphere, altering the behavior of the elements that conserve heat.
More than half of the emitted longwave energy is in the far infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which will be measured for the first time by FORUM. This will provide a clearer and more detailed picture of what is happening at different altitudes of the atmosphere and will allow more accurate tracing of atmospheric components, especially water vapor and ice clouds.
Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programs, said: “The FORUM mission will for the first time measure the far-infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum from space, thereby better understanding the energy balance of our planet. . FORUM will bring great benefits to climate science.
“A better understanding of the complexity of our climate system and the filling of gaps in our knowledge is of critical importance as the consequences of climate change are widespread, affecting all facets of society and the natural world.”
The mission's design will now be refined and then built to launch in 2026.
FORUM is ESA's ninth Earth Exploration mission. The satellite series uses innovative measurement techniques to generate new knowledge about different aspects of the earth system and the interactions that link the system as a whole. They are designed and built to fill the knowledge gaps identified by the scientific community, keeping scientists at the center of the selection and development process.
FORUM and its competitor, the Multi-Scale Sea Surface Kinematics (SKIM) monitoring concept, were presented and discussed in detail with the scientific community at a user consultation meeting in Cambridge, UK, in July. While both missions offer exceptional value to science, ESA's Earth Observation Advisory Committee recommended FORUM because of its planned impact on climate models, identifying climate forecasting as a major global concern.
More information about ESA's Earth Explorers: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/The_Living_Planet_Programme/Earth_Explorers
FORUM Team Website: https://www.forum-ee9.eu/
FORUM report for selection: https://esamultimedia.esa.int/docs/EarthObservation/EE9-FORUM-RfMS-ESA-v1.0-FINAL.pdf
Sunrise and Earth's atmosphere from space https://www.flickr.com/photos/astro_alex/46571430855/
Earth from space https://www.flickr.com/photos/astro_alex/46173827411/
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An introduction to FORUM http://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2019/09/FORUM
Earth Exploration Consultation Meeting 9 http://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Sets/Earth_Explorer_9_User_Consultation_Meeting
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