Taking climate monitoring into the future with quantum

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#Climate change , #ESA

Published on 27 May 2022

Over the last decades, satellites measuring the many aspects of Earth have certainly demonstrated their worth with the information they yield to understand and monitor our environment and, importantly, to provide undeniable evidence of climate change for policymaking. While Europe is currently firmly placed as a world leader in Earth observation, it’s critical to stay ahead of the game by examining how even more sophisticated space technologies can be developed to return even more precise information in the future.
Today, at ESA’s Living Planet Symposium, being held in Bonn, scientists dug deep into the potential of spaceborne quantum gravity sensors to do just this.

Most of us probably wouldn’t normally associate Earth’s gravity field with climate – we would think of it as the fundamental force of nature that keeps our planet in orbit around the Sun and what holds our world together. However, the strength of our gravity field varies from place to place, and some of these tiny variations are actually linked to aspects of our planet that are connected to climate change.

This image shows an experiment where six laser beams cool and trap atoms before sending the cold atom cloud into the atom interferometer. The laser beam then shines the atoms to measure the gravity field they have experimented.

Variations in the gravity field are due to a number of factors such as the rotation of Earth, the position of mountains and ocean trenches and variations in the density of Earth's interior. But smaller variations in time and location are due to other factors such as fluctuations in underground water reservoirs and changes in ice mass.

So having a really precise model of the gravity field and being able to show change over time is important for understanding issues such as the dwindling freshwater resources, the loss of ice mass from ice sheets and glaciers and sea-level change, which are symptomatic of the climate crisis.

Read the rest of the article
on ESA's Observing the Earth website