For the activities of the Environment & Climate Research Cluster, the ERATOSTHENES CoE exploits the state-of-the-art infrastructure of the Centre such as the proposed Ground-Based Remote Sensing Station (GBS), Copernicus data and core services, archived satellite images and data from various EO networks, among other equipment, to conduct cutting-edge applied research in this research cluster, which results in effective applications, services, education, and related start-ups. This can be combined with regional and global EO monitoring with ground-based networks, in addition to long-term observations, statistics, and trend analysis over the past decades, which is essential to understanding the processes that link the environment with climate problems. The Environment & Climate research cluster consists, as shown earlier, of the following sectors:
The Environment & Climate research cluster consists of 16 researchers (8 Postdoctoral and 8 PhD students) and is coordinated by Dr. Albert Ansmann from TROPOS, one of the EXCELSIOR project’s advance partners.
At the beginning of the EXCELSIOR project, the Atmosphere cluster of the ERATOSTHENES Centre of Excellence (ERATOSTHENES CoE) focused on the establishment of the Ground-based Atmospheric Remote Sensing Station (GBS). The main focus was given to the installation of new instruments, the integration of the new research infrastructure of the GBS into Cyprus Atmospheric Remote Sensing Observatory (CARO), and their operation in Limassol.
CARO is a National Facility (NF) for remote sensing of aerosol and clouds and is planned to become an ACTRIS National Research Infrastructure facility for Cyprus consisting of the aerosol remote sensing (ARS) observational platform and the cloud remote sensing (CRS) observational platform. The ARS platform runs a sun photometer of the AERONET network and a multiwavelength Raman lidar part of the PollyNET network. The CUT-TEPAK station is an in-kind contribution of the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT), and the PollyXT-CYP lidar is an in-kind contribution of TROPOS, both to ERATOSTHENES CoE for the EXCELSIOR project. In terms of becoming a national facility (NF) of the European Research Infrastructure ACTRIS, CARO is expected to be fully functional and ready for labelling in the summer of 2024. The ARS observational platform is already ready for this effort. Delays are related to the delayed delivery and installation of the 35-GHz cloud radar of the Cloud Remote Sensing (CRS) observational platform. It is expected to operate the finalised CRS sub-unit at Limassol in April 2024.
In brief, the sector of Atmosphere activities and research topics are the following:
Cyprus provides a strong environment for demonstrating and further development of climate observation technology in a key region of climate change. This unique position is expected to attract international companies and leading researchers. Air quality monitoring and forecasting will be improved for the whole population of the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa (EMMENA) region.
As a result of the capacity building of the CARO team received by TROPOS, our EXCELSIOR advanced partner, related to the installation, maintenance, and full operation of the aerosol component of the GBS, the CARO team of the ERATOSTHENES CoE participated in a pilot campaign for NRT (near real-time) lidar observation provision for assimilation into forecast models provided by CAMS. The PollyXT-CYP system participated in the first pilot campaign coordinated by ACTRIS, with the contribution of TROPOS which provided the tools and the expertise in the provision of NRT data. This activity is estimated to restart in September 2023 and to continue and enhance the activities and developments achieved during the previous CAMS21b contract.
A major step towards recognition of the value of the infrastructure build in Limassol is represented by a submission of a cal/val project for the future mission EarthCARE that will be launched by ESA/JAXA in 2024. This proposal will make use of both aerosol and cloud profiling remote sensing instruments of CARO, and will address, together with the Energy sector of Eratosthenes CoE, all three remote-sensing components (lidar, cloud radar, radiation) of the EarthCARE satellite. In this proposal, also the USRL team of CARE-C/CyI is involved.
Following the installation, operation and trainings of the available instruments, the next step is the capacity building activities for the data transfer scripts, the processing chains, the installation of software analyses and the archiving protocols. Progress in capacity-building strongly depends on the availability of servers, both for the operation of the GBS, as we as a central server of ERATOSTHENES CoE. Currently, the PollyNET processing chain is running at TROPOS servers and all the available data of the GBS (PollyXT and DWL) are stored at the TROPOS servers. Once the server infrastructure for the GBS is hosted at the ERATOSTHENES CoE, the capacity-building activities will start and the PollyNET processing chain will be installed on the ERATOSTHENES CoE server.
Joint activities, such as capacity-building and the demonstration project between the members of the Agriculture sector and the advanced partner (NOA), targeting the enhancement of the research skills and knowledge have been carried out. Furthermore, a summary of other activities related to the sector is given describing the stakeholders’ engagement – living labs; the development of the beta-version of the ERATOSTHENES CoE Agri Nexus Hub is also provided.
Following the above-mentioned Agriculture capacity-building activities, a demonstration project followed on “Agriculture Monitoring” with the support of NOA. Various technologies were transferred to ERATOSTHENES CoE’s personnel such as databases and data querying, Causal ML, Data Cube implementation and experience related to agricultural practices, yield prediction, soil degradation and ecosystem services indicators. The transfer of knowledge aims to support ERATOSTHENES CoE personnel to demonstrate its capacity for agricultural monitoring and machine learning techniques to assist in agricultural decision-making.
In brief, the activities and research topics of the Agriculture sector are the following:
The “Agriculture Monitoring” demonstration project acts as a knowledge-transfer tool dedicated to highlight and advance the research capabilities of the ERATOSTHENES CoE. NOA and ERATOSTHENES CoE staff worked together closely, developing capacity, critical workflows from data to core outputs to produce new scientific knowledge and practical advice on crop and agricultural practice (irrigation, ploughing etc.) suitability.
Through the demonstration project, the agriculture data cube of the ERATOSTHENES CoE was initiated where different Analysis Ready Data (ARD) satellite products were ingested such as Sentinel 1 & 2 satellite imagery data (pre-processed) as well as five different MODIS products (1. Vegetation Indices 16-Day L3 Global 250 m; 2. Vegetation Continuous Fields Yearly L3 Global 250 m, 3. Leaf Area Index/FPAR 8-Day L4 Global 500 m; 4. Burned Area Monthly L3 Global 500 m; and 5. Land Surface Phenology (Land Cover Dynamics) Yearly L3 Global 500 m). Additionally, during the Agriculture demonstration project, crop suitability maps were developed, incorporating information on barley, wheat, crop diversification, and fallow suitability. To assess the accuracy and reliability of these derived crop suitability maps, field-scale hydrogeological models were developed. These models were utilised to estimate irrigation demand, allowing for an evaluation of the associated uncertainty of the derived suitability indices. This approach enabled a thorough assessment of the suitability maps and their applicability in agricultural decision-making processes. The capacity-building activities, the demonstration project and input by the continuously increasing Agriculture team led to the development of the Agri Nexus Hub, presented below.
The ERATOSTHENES CoE Agri Nexus Hub: The Agroclimatic Observations Tool utilises data acquired from meteorological stations of the Department of Meteorology of Cyprus, the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, Satellite Imagery from Sentinel-2, LPIS from the Cyprus Agriculture Payment Organization and in-situ observations such as spectroradiometric data, Leaf Area Index, Meteorological data from local weather stations, etc. The objective of this tool is to inform farmers daily about the water losses of their fields due to climatic conditions. Agroclimatic Observations provides also daily calculations of Crop Evapotranspiration (ETc) for citrus orchards, olive groves and potatoes cultivations around Cyprus. Sentinel-2 Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is beneficial to understanding the vegetation’s health in the island’s territory. This is the first phase of the development of the ERATOSTHENES CoE Agri Nexus Hub, which will be open access for stakeholders and end users; in contrast, a second phase (validation phase) of collecting in-situ data will follow, aiming to validate the estimated irrigation demand.
EO techniques can be applied to monitor the quality and quantity of water in dams and coastal areas. By exploiting high-resolution dense time series for large scale water applications (such as monitoring all the inland water bodies on a national level), improved water management strategies and policies can be developed. Research into water shortages, droughts, climate change, eutrophication, changes in water depth and desertification in the EMMENA region will be better understood through capacity building and knowledge transfer. As well, the ECoE can capitalise on the available EO-data combined with sensor-networks and ground-based derived data to develop new products which will fulfil the specific needs of the end-users at the national and regional level (technological development and innovative products/solutions for commercialisation). Cyprus provides a strong environment for demonstrating and further developing climate observation technology in a key region of climate change, which is expected to attract leading researchers in the field of water resources.
The Water sector is situated within the Department of Climate and Environment of ERATOSTHENES Centre of Excellence (ERATOSTHENES CoE).
In brief, the activities and research topics of the Water sector are the following:
The combination of EO, remote sensing and GIS techniques has provided a useful and detailed way to improve the selection of areas designed for agricultural, urban and/or industrial exploitation in a region. Such techniques can be used for land-cover characterization, mapping and monitoring. In addition to facilitating sustainable management of the land, land cover and land use information can be used for planning, monitoring, and evaluating the development, industrial activity, or reclamation. In addition, remote sensing can be used to monitor forests, forest fires, forestry and environmental management. The assessment of forest information over time enables the comprehensive monitoring of forest resources. The use of remote sensing in forest resource assessment provides information regarding the spatial extent of forest cover, the forest type and the biophysical and biochemical properties of forests. In brief, the activities and research topics of the Land sector are the following:
The Land sector is under the Department of Climate and Environment of ERATOSTHENES Centre of Excellence.
The Land sector currently collaborates closely with Water, Agriculture and Disaster Risk Reduction sectors.