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Current and future ESA missions and forward modelling requirements

This table shows the reviewed ESA missions. The table summarizes the objectives of the missions and provides information about required forward modeling capabilities. Most of the information has been obtained from ESA's website:


instrumentobjectivemeasured quantitiesinstrumentationFM requirements
ASAR measure surface topography and ocean currents reflected radar pulses from surface Microwave radar: C-band, with choice of 5 polarisation modes retrieval based on Doppler shift, no radiative transfer required in standard retrieval method; RT useful for error analysis
MERIS measure atmosphere and surface properties cloud optical depth, cloud top height, water vapor column, surface vegetation, ocean (biology and color) medium-spectral resolution, imaging spectrometer, solar spectral range detailed RT models required (BRDFs, clouds, aerosols, …)
AATSR measure atmosphere and surface properties sea and land surface temperature, cloud properties, vegetation quantity and quality reflected and emitted radiation at 0.55 µm, 0.66 µm, 0.87 µm, 1.6 µm, 3.7 µm, 11 µm and 12 µm solar and thermal radiances (correlated-k)
RA-2 improve knowledge of topography surface altitude nadir-looking pulse-limited radar altimeter at 13.575 GHz retrieval based on time shift of radar echo, no radiative transfer required
MWR water vapor / cloud liquid water content emitted microwave radiation microwave radiometer at 23.8 GHz and 36.5 GHz microwave radiative transfer model
GOMOS long-term monitoring of the global vertical ozone distribution stratospheric trace gas concentrations medium resolution spectrometer, stellar occultation technique, spectral bands: 250-675 nm, 756-773 nm, and 926-952 nm UV/VIS radiances/ spherical model atmosphere/ extraterrestrial stellar radiation source
MIPAS global observations of greenhouse gases trace gas emissions high spectral resolution Fourier transform spectrometer (4.15 microns to 14.6 microns) line-by-line model for IR, spherical atmosphere, Jacobians, refraction
SCIAMACHY global measurements of trace gases in the troposphere and in the stratosphere reflected solar radiation imaging spectrometer, relatively high resolution from 240-1700 nm, and in selected regions between 2000 nm and 2400 nm UV/VIS radiances, spherical geometry, refraction, Raman scattering, clouds, aerosols, polarisation, reflected light from moon as radiation source for lunar occultation measurements
DORIS determine the precise location of the ENVISAT satellite Doppler frequency shift of radio signals dual-frequency Doppler tracking system (401.25MHz, 2036.25MHz) no RT model requirements
LRR support satellite ranging for precise orbit determination (used as reflector for ground based laser tracking systems) passive optical instrument (350-800 nm optimised for 532nm) no RT model requirements


instrumentobjectivemeasured quantitiesinstrumentationFM requirements
IASIaccurate humidity and atmospheric temperature profiles in troposphere and lower stratosphere IR emission from atmosphere and surface Fourier Transform Spectrometer based on a Michelson Interferometer (3.4 and 15.5 microns) high spectral resolution radiances, line-by-line model
AMSU-(A1,A2) atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles in troposphere and stratosphere, precipitation, snow cover, sea-ice concentration and soil moisture microwave emission microwave radiometer with 15 channels (highest frequency 89 GHz) microwave radiative transfer model, RT in precipitation, sea ice emissivity model
MHS atmospheric humidity, including rain, snow, hail and sleet, and temperature surface emission microwave radiometer (89 - 190 GHz) microwave RT model; scattering by water droplets, snow, hail and clouds
HIRS atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles in the troposphere and stratosphere, surface albedo, ocean surface temperature, the total atmospheric ozone levels, precipitable water, cloud height and coverage infrared and visible radiances radiometer with 20 spectral band from the visible to the longwave infrared RT model for IR and VIS/ radiances
GRAS temperature and humidity profiles radio waves transmitted through the atmosphere Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver radiation transfer of radio waves
ASCAT wind speed and direction over the ocean electromagnetic backscatter from the wind-roughened ocean surface radar (5.255 GHz) no RT considered in standard retrieval algorithm
GOME-2 atmospheric content and profile of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, water vapour, oxygen, bromine oxide and other gases reflected solar radiation spectrometer (240-790 nm) UV/Vis radiative transfer model that calculates radiances


instrumentobjectivemeasured quantitiesinstrumentationFM requirements
MSG SEVERI nowcasting, forecasting, NWP, climate monitoring cloud and atmospheric motion vectors, cloud type, coverage, height and temperature, surface albedo, sea surface temperature, total ozone, (upper) tropospheric humidity specrometer with 12 spectral bands between 0.6 and 13.4 μm, bandwidths between 0.3 to 2 μm broadband solar and thermal radiances
MSG GERB improve understanding the Earth’s climate balance outgoing and incoming radiative flux radiometers measuring at 0.32 - 4 μm and at 4 - 30 μm broadband radiances and fluxes (solar and thermal)
MTG FDHSI full disk high spectral imagery for nowcasting, forecasting, NWP, climate monitoring, fire detection cloud detection, type, CTP, CTT, cloud phase, drop size, COT, AOT, Aerosol size distr., volcanic ash, instability, CMV, AMV, LST, SST, vegetation, albedo 16 channel radiometer, 0.444, 0.51, 0.645, 0.86, 0.96, 1.375, 1.61, 2.26 (all Δx = 1 km), 3.8, 6.3, 7.35, 8.7, 9.66, 10.5, 12.3, 13.3 um (all TIR Δx: 2 km, Δt: 10 min, bandwidth: 0.03 - 0.7 um) solar/thermal radiances
MTG HRFI high resolution fast imagery to support nowcasting and observation of convective lifcycle, AMV, rapid development of CTH and cloud top microphysics cloud detection, CTP, CTT, cloud phase, drop size 4 channel radiometer, 0.645, 2.26, 3.8, 10.5 um, (Δx VIS/NIR: 0.5 km, TIR: 1 km; Δt: 2 min, bandwidth: 0.05 - 0.7 um) solar/thermal radiances
MTG IRS/UVS sounding sounding missions in IR and UV/VIS AMV, radiances for NWP assimilation of level 1b data, T(z), humidity(z), O3, CO (IRS) O3, SO2, NO2, H2CO (UVS) interferometer IRS: 4.6-6.3 and 8.2-14.3 um, spectral res.: ~4 nm, interferometer UVS: 290-450 nm (res. 0.4-0.8 nm) and O2A band (758-772nm, res. 0.06 nm), no longer any polarimetric requirements high spectral resolution solar/thermal radiances, LBL model
MTG LI lightning imagery mission continuous detection of lightning on Δx = 10 km, 4-400 μJ/m2/sr flashes for 0.5 ms at 777.4 nm should be detectable not specified in detail solar radiance

Earth Explorers

Core missions
missionobjectivemeasured quantitiesinstrumentationFM requirements
EarthCarequantify radiative forcing/improve NWP, GCM solar and thermal TOA radiances,rain rates, vertical profiles of aerosols and water/ice clouds, particle type/shape/size, optical depth, density,cloud overlap, supercooled water layers, cloud inhomogeneity, verticl motion, surface albedo BDR(Broad band Radiometer), CPR (Cloud Profiling Radar) 94 GHz, ATLID/HSRL (Atmospheric backscatter Lidar/High Spectral Resolution Lidar), MSI (Multispectral Imager) 0.67, 0.865, 1.65, 2.21, 8.8, 10.8, 12.0 μm Lidar simulator with polarization and thermal doppler-shift (Monte Carlo), Radar simulator (Monte Carlo), solar/thermal radiances
ADM-Aeolus improve wind in NWP by assimilation wind speed Doppler-Lidar, slant view wind speed retrieval algorithm based on Doppler shift, does not require RT model; detailed analysis in inhomogeneous atmosphere requires 3D Lidar simulator
GOCE determine gravity-field anomalies with high accuracy Earth's gravity field and geoid three-axis electrostatic gravity gradiometer no RT model
Opportunity missions
missionobjectivemeasured quantitiesinstrumentationFM requirements
CryoSat-2 change of sea ice in response to climate change sea ice mass and thickness SAR/Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL), Doppler Orbit and Radio Positioning Integration by Satellite (DORIS), laser retroreflector retrieval based on time shift and resulting phase differences of radar pulses, simulation of echo shapes, along-track beam processing, across track phase coherence etc., no RT model
SMOS improve weather and extreme-event forecasting, and contribute to seasonal-climate forecasting, contribute to studies of the cryosphere soil moisture, salinity 2-dimensional interferometic L-Band radiometer (1.4 GHz) retrieval based on optimal estimation (Levenberg-Marquard method), requires polarized microwave radiances, detailed surface emissivity models
SWARM new insights Earth's interior and climate Earth's magnetic field Absolute Scalar Magnetometer (ASM) simulation of magnetospheric and ionospheric currents, no radiative transfer
Future missions
missionobjectivemeasured quantitiesinstrumentationFM requirements
TRAQAir quality of troposphäre O3, NO2, SO2, HCHO, H2O, HCOOCH, CO, CH4, tropospheric aerosol characterisation High resolution SW spectrometer (UV-IR), multi-directional polarization imager, cloud imager polarized radiances UV-IR, LBL, multiple scattering, various aerosol types
PREMIER atmospheric processes linking trace gases, radiation, chemistry and climate trace gases and water vapor in UTLS infrared limb-imaging spectrometer and a millimeter-wave limb-sounder spherical clearsky model for thermal wavelegth region
FLEXobserve global photosynthesis through the measurement of fluorescence fluorescence signal of plants, vegetation temperature very high-spectral resolution imaging spectrometer Raman scattering (?), absorption in plants, fluoreszenz
A-Scope global carbon cycle and regional carbon dioxide fluxes CO2, aerosol and cloud layer information, tree canopy height high-resolution Differential Absorption Lidar (DIAL), 1.57 and 2.05 μm Multiple scattering lidar simulator
CoReH2O snow, ice and water cycle improve modelling, prediction of water balance and streamflow for snow covered and glacierised basins twin frequency synthetic aperture radars (9.6 and 17.2 GHz) radar simulator for detailed data analysis
BIOMASS assess terrestrial carbon stocks and fluxes global measurements of forest biomass P-band synthetic aperture polarimetric radar (435 MHz, 6 MHz bandwidth) polarized radar simulator (MHz wavelength region) for detailed data analysis

GMES Sentinels

missionobjectivemeasured quantitiesinstrumentationFM requirements
Sentinel 1 Radar mapping; continuity for SAR data surface altitude and change C-band radar (4-8 GHz) retrieval based on time shift of radar echo, no radiative transfer required for retrieval; signal affected by atmosphere, e.g. heavy rain; radar simulator required to assess these effects
Sentinel 2 generic maps of land cover for agricultural, urban, and forest management, as well as geo-biophysical variables such as leaf area index or vegetation state surface properties spectrometer (443nm to 2190nm) RT model for UV/Vis, BRDFs, correlated-k or spectral band models
Sentinel 3 biological monitoring, oceanic weather warnings, assimilation for NWP sea surface height, significant wave height, ocean/land color, sea/land surface temperature Radar Altimeter, MERIS (Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer, 0.413, 0.443, 0.490, 0.510, 0.560, 0.620, 0.665, 0.681, 0.709, 0.754, 0.761, 0.779, 0.865, 0.885, 0.900, 1.020 um), AATSR (Advanced Along Track Scanning Radiometer, 0.555, 0.659, 0.865, 1.375, 1.61, 2.25, 3.74, 10.85, 12.0 um) radar simulator, solar and thermal radiances
Sentinels 4/5 stratospheric ozone and surface UV-radiation, Air quality, Climate tropospheric composition (radiance spectra in various channels to measure CO, O3, CH4, aerosols) UV-Visible spectrometer, SWIR spectrometer, thermal IR spectrometer, (possibly mm-wave of IR limb sounder) optimal estimation retrieval: high spectral resolution radiances UV/VIS/IR, (sub-mm limb radiances), LBL model

Venus Express / Mars Express

Several instruments for remotes sensing of Venus and Mars are used, that are also used for remote sensing of the Earth. The requirements for radiative transfer modelling are similar. The major difference is, that the atmospheric composition is completely different on the Venus and on Mars. Realistic assumptions are needed for appropriate simulations.

The following web-sites include required information about the instrumentation of the missions. The instruments that require radiative transfer modeling are listed in the report.

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