BIOMASS – satellite for better climate monitoring

BIOMASS is one of three projects remaining after 24 proposals that are aiming to be the 7th Earth Explorer satellite launched in 2016. FOI has been extremely professional in the work to contribute competence in the development of algorithms and the radar system. We are lucky to have such a competent and venturesome partner in our team to fulfil our mission, says Klaus Scipal, Mission Scientist, ESA, European Space Agency.


The seventh satellite

“Six satellites, Earth Explorers, have been chosen to monitor the climate changes affecting our planet. Some have already been launched into space and several are on the way. We are working with one of the three candidates for a seventh satellite and we hope that BIOMASS is selected to be put into orbit. BIOMASS involves research groups from the seven European countries that are involved in the project with ESA. Participating for Sweden are Chalmers and the Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU) in Umeå.”


Uncontrolled deforestation

“Deforestation is one of the major problem areas where climate change is concerned and it is this that we have focused on. The climate change question is essentially about the carbon cycle. The carbon dioxide that we emit forms part of the carbon cycle, as do the forests. Forests can bind carbon dioxide, and if we get more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, this serves to fertilise forests so that they grow more strongly. But if we cut down areas of forest, and perhaps burn them off to provide areas for sowing crops, even more carbon dioxide is released. This happens entirely beyond the control of individual countries.”


All countries should report to the UN

“In order to be able to make credible climate change predictions, it is important to know the effects of deforestation. One problem is that we have no means of observing and following up these effects.”


“The information should be included in individual countries’ systems for reporting to the UN. All countries are required to report to the UN any changes in their forested areas from year to year. In Sweden we have very good systems for this but there is nothing comparable in, for example, South America or Africa.”


Reliable radar technology

“BIOMASS uses radar technology which is based partly on FOI’s research, and which is already in use in Swedish radar systems designed to locate hidden objects buried in the ground. This means that our concept for BIOMASS is based on existing, proven and reliable technology.”


“The project is a good example of cases in which technology that we have originally developed for military applications can also have civil uses.”