As world leaders hastily try to put measures in place to curb the effects of the deteriorating climate change, experts need reliable tools to gain better understanding of the extent of the problem and how they can realistically prevent further calamities.
Earth observations (EO) have become some of the most effective tools that climate experts employ to make informed decisions on what strategies they can formulate to mitigate the impact of global warming.
Accessing critical data
South Africa, through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is also part of countries that are tapping into the latest technologies to harvest reliable and scientific data on earth movement patterns. The CSIR, through the Marine and Coastal Operations for Southern Africa (MarCOSouth) consortium, received one of 12 Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and Africa programme eStations that enable access to critical EO data.
Empowering key partners
The installation of the eStation was made possible by the European funding but it is managed by the African Union GMES. Once established the eStation will enable regional key stakeholders including various research, academic, and industry organisations access to EO data and the MarCOSouth portal (www.marcosouth.co.za) to support the implementation of sustainable development policies at regional, national and continental level.
eStation on CSIR campus
Installation of the eStation at the CSIR Pretoria campus, a leading partner in the Southern African consortium MarCOSouth project, was completed in June 2021. The MarCOSouth project aims to maintain, further develop and provide a sustainable platform for local, institutional, human and technical capabilities across Southern African countries. South Africa is also a host country of the global Square Kilometre Array – an intergovernmental and the world’s largest radio telescope.
Strengthening African eStation capacities
Said Riëtte Pretorius, CSIR project manager for the MarCOSouth project: “The e-Station is an operational distributable open-source data processing tool that aims to build and strengthen capacities in Africa to receive process, analyse and exploit EO data for environmental management. The e-Station collects data from various sources that include, among others, the EUMETSAT and Copernicus services.”
Copernicus is a European EO programme used to monitor the Earth using satellites and in situ sensors, explained Pretorius. It provides accurate, timely and easily accessible information to improve the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security, she added. EUMETSAT provides data, products and support services to the Copernicus information services and user communities, with a focus on marine life, the atmosphere and climate.
Uninterrupted power supply
The installation of the eStation entails outdoor and indoor unit, the latter is an antenna that allows for the reception of the EUMETCast – Africa data. The indoor unit consists of an acquisition subsystem in the form of a personal computer that operates as the receiver of the EUMETCast data and an uninterrupted power supply, as well as other necessary peripherals. The e-Station (a part of the indoor unit) consists of a personal computer that is responsible for the acquisition and processing of the data and one that is responsible for the visualisation and sharing of the data.
Decoding frames and reconstructing file
“Each of the eStation computers has a EUMETCast key unit for the decryption data keys, as well as the TELLICAST software that allows for the decoding of frames and reconstruction of the files,” said Pretorius. Currently, there is no other active eStation for marine and coastal applications in Southern Africa. The Spatial Information Systems Research Group will host a workshop on the eStation/EUMETCast capability for the wider CSIR EO community soon. Details on this will be outlined soon.