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A satellite perspective of global change

Satellitenmission SWARM

01.04. 2014: ESA’s satellite trio Swarm is going to provide comprehensive observations of the Earth’s magnetic field and gravity field, as well as in-situ measurements in the upper atmosphere. These data are mandatory for monitoring global change. Within the frame of the Priority Program (SPP 1788) “Study of Earth System Dynamics with a Constellation of Potential Field Missions”, recently implemented by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG, these space-based data are used to monitor the evolution of the geomagnetic field, track changes in near-Earth space, and evaluate and quantify the driving processes.

Professor Hermann Lühr and Professor Claudia Stolle from GFZ, German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam are coordinating this national Priority Program. Measurements of the Swarm satellites, ESA’s first constellation mission for Earth observation, are of prime interest for the planned research. These three identical spacecraft have been successfully launched on 22 November 2013, and are ready for commencing their 4-years scientific mission by mid April, after completion of the commissioning phase.

The high-resolution magnetic field measurements will help to further decipher the geodynamo action in the Earth’s core and provide better maps of the crustal magnetisation, but in addition magnetic field readings enable us to monitor transport processes of charged particles in the upper atmosphere and track large-scale ocean circulations” states Professor Lühr. Likewise, any material transport within the Earth and on the surface causes changes of the gravity field. For the Priority Program DynamicEarth changes in the hydrological cycle like melting of the ice shields or changes in ground water tables are of particular interest. “Observing fundamental changes of the Earth’s magnetic field and gravity field together with in-situ measurements in the upper atmosphere provide important clues for a substancial interpretation of global change” adds Professor Stolle.

With the implementation of the DFG Priority Program DynamicEarth German scientists at universities and research institutions plan to study system Earth in an interdisciplinary approach. The complementary set of Swarm observations supported by measurements from other facilities will be at the center of interest. Very helpful in this context is the experience they gained with earlier successful missions like CHAMP, Ørsted, GRACE, and GOCE.

Images in a printable resolution may be found here.

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