Public to have access to satellite data to examine growth of urban areas, water quality

ACADEMICS and the public will be able to access satellite data in near real time allowing them to examine the growth of urban areas, assess water quality and look at agricultural practices.

The Irish Centre for High End Computing will today unveil its SPÉir platform which provides direct access to a host of Earth monitoring satellite programmes.

The announcement comes a year after Ireland signed a deal with the European Space Agency (ESA) which provides access to the high-tech Sentinel series of satellites.

“The repository is free and available to use by everyone, meaning anyone involved in industry and commercial activities, to third level researchers, government departments and school teachers, can access the data,” ICHEC Director Professor JC Desplat said.

“The data is useful in areas like national planning and land use, including agriculture, woodlands, environmental issues and pollution monitoring, where large datasets are becoming essential. “Planners of the future simply will not be able to work without this data, so it’s crucial that we are developing this database now, to enable applications to be developed.”

Images supplied by the ICHEC show how a beach collapsed Rossbeigh, Co. Kerry during the winter of 2008/2009.

“The beach collapse in this case occurred due to a storm which left a peninsula and then an island completely separate from the beach after a few weeks, as the sediment gradually got washed away by waves, tides and rain water, since there were no dunes left to stabilise it,” Dr Jenny Hanafin from ICHEC said.

Earth Observation via satellites has seen massive growth in recent years, and the SPÉir (Satellite Platform for Éire) platform includes archived and near-real time information about the nation’s land surface, the atmosphere above us, and the North Atlantic in which we sit.

ICHEC said access to the data would help create jobs, particularly in developing applications for environmental data.

Dr Hanafin said it was involved in a joint project with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where data was being used for the assessment of inland waters, monitoring water quality in coastal and inland waters where changes to water properties could be analysed.

As well as hosting the satellite data, ICHEC will provide expertise and processing services so that information and services can be easily generated from the data archives. 

The news also comes in advance of the launch of Ireland’s new supercomputer, which boasts state-of-the-art processing abilities and storage space. This will be formally unveiled early in the new year.

ICHEC also aims to work with its partner firm, Irish company Skytek, on developing the platform for commercial interests. Skytek has been developing access systems to European Space Agency data, where global atmospheric data is made available to scientists worldwide. ICHEC is also looking at other commercial opportunities.

The data can be accessed here

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