Technology: The Copernicus Emergency Management Service
The Copernicus Emergency Management Service, a global, versatile and operational tool for emergency managers and disaster risk reduction stakeholders, kick-started in April 2012. Seven years later, it has become an essential tool for emergency managers and disaster risk reduction stakeholders. A recent EMS user workshop in Stresa (Lago Maggiore, Italy) provided a good opportunity to measure the road travelled and to introduce the new features of “Copernicus EMS 3.0”.
The Copernicus EMS is currently composed of two main pillars: an Early Warning and Monitoring component and an on-demand Mapping component. The former comprises three elements:
The Mapping component delivers, for any type of disaster, on-demand maps and geospatial information produced on the basis of high and very high resolution satellite imagery from Copernicus Sentinel spacecraft or so-called optical or radar “contributing missions” whose data is procured to meet user requirements in terms of resolution or features to be extracted. The EMS Mapping component is composed of:
Over the years, the Copernicus programme, in close cooperation with users, among which DG ECHO, the European Commission’s (EC) Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department and with the EC’s Joint Research Centre as an implementation partner, has regularly updated and upgraded its service in order to keep up with evolving user requirements, to integrate the latest technological developments and to take stock of the lessons learned over time.
As a result, a certain number of service evolutions have been implemented or are in preparation.
As far as Rapid Mapping is concerned, the service has been activated on more than 360 occasions in the wake of disasters including larger ones such as hurricanes Irma or Harvey in the United States and the Caribbean, tropical cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique, the Palu and Krakatau tsunamis in Indonesia, l’Aquila and Amatrice earthquakes in Italy as well as forest fires in Doñana (Spain), Monchique (Portugal) or Attika (Greece). Users often activate the service for floods, the most frequent disaster event in the world, eg in the Ebro basin (Spain), in Australia or in the Balkans. Other examples where rapid maps have been provided are for, for humanitarian crises in Bangladesh, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A new product portfolio has been made available: since May of this year, new features have been introduced such as a First Estimate Product (FEP) which provides an extremely fast general assessment of the situation; faster delivery times for rush mode products; a SL2 product category for cases in which urgency is not extreme and in which products are delivered within maximum 5 days. The link with early warning and alert systems, in particular the European Flood Alert System, has also been strengthened in order to allow shorter delivery times, thanks to the pre-tasking of satellite assets. The products of both Rapid and Risk and Recovery Mapping will also be shortly available through interactive web services to facilitate accessibility and integration into users’ operational workflows. Finally, the use of Sentinel data is continuously increasing as the Sentinel-1 and 2 constellations have become fully operational.
For Risk and Recovery Mapping a new product portfolio will be introduced: standardised products such as reference maps, risk status for population and assets, probabilistic risk assessment based on likely hazards etc., will become available in shorter timeframes, while customised products, which will be known as FLEX, will remain part of the catalogue when users require complex products such as evacuation maps, hazard exposure maps, studies into the resilience of buildings and people, etc. This follows the success of this product offering which has seen demand double between the period from 2013 to 2015 and the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 during which the visibility of the service and the number of users has considerably increased. Among the 62 past activations, examples of the type of user requests include: Assessing changes in ground subsidence rates in the Mekong Delta, in Vietnam; Forest fire risk assessment in Southern Croatia; Historic flood delineation and analyses for Elbe/Vltava catchment in Germany and Czechia; Reconstruction monitoring of St. Martin and St Barthelemy islands (after hurricane Irma); or Tsunami risk assessment in Southern Italy. As the new service offering is currently being put in place, the activities will resume in the fourth quarter of 2019.
The EDO and GDO Drought Observatories have ramped up their activities and produced reports about drought episodes in Mainland Southeast Asia (July 2019), India (June 2019), in the Horn of Africa (April 2019), Central America and the Caribbean (March 2019) or Southern Africa (January 2019) while their products have been widely used during the European drought of the summer of 2018 and frequently quoted in mainstream media.
The EFAS and GLOFAS Flood Awareness Systems have enlarged their network of partners, thus being able to add more in situ data and basin-level models into its forecasting environment. For instance, the Water Management Agency of Luxembourg and the Greek General Secretariat for Civil Protection have recently joined the EFAS network. EFAS has also introduced, in early 2019, a new e modern, user-friendly and flexible web interface to improve user experience and accessibility. Finally the EFAS data has also been integrated into the Copernicus Climate Change Service Climate Data Store, enabling users to combine it with other climate-related parameters.
Finally, EFFIS, the European Forest Fire information System has continued to develop its product portfolio, which includes a full range of statistics, per country, on number of fires, burned areas, etc. with comparisons with the 2008-2018 average, as well seasonal trends and fire news, over and above the Current Situation Viewer which enables to visualise fire danger forecasts, active fires and burnt areas at coarse resolution. EFFIS has really become mainstream in many EU Member States: for example, during the fire season, the Croatian fire danger forecasts are presented in the evening news on national television, while in Spain the forest fire coordination centres of several autonomous regions tweet daily the EFFIS fire danger forecast for the area.
As demonstrated in this article, the Copernicus Emergency Management Service is an iconic example of the European Union at its best. Supporting preparedness, disaster risk reduction, disaster management and recovery efforts, the EMS has indeed become an essential component of the EU Civil Protection and RescEu mechanisms, as well as of the United Nation’s Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a global endeavour to save lives, preserve property and respond to the ever-growing number and impact of disasters fuelled by climate change.