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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 August 2006, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Earth's health under observation
Buncefield oil depot image (courtesy NERC)
Satellite images will aid the new centre's observation of Earth
A new centre will monitor the effects of climate change by linking data from across the globe and satellite images.

The Reading University-based centre will provide a "health check" for the planet, pooling the expertise of the UK's natural science centres.

But the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) will mainly use satellites to keep an eye on changes to the planet's environment from space.

Ozone levels, pollution and melting sea ice will all be surveyed by the NCEO.

The new centre has been funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and is due to start operating in September.

We want to give planet earth a big health check, and give a prognosis for the future
Prof Alan O'Neill

Prof Alan O'Neill, currently a science director at Reading University, will head the new "super centre".

He said: "We want to give planet earth a big health check, and give a prognosis for the future. Earth observation satellites can be likened to body scanners in this respect.

"What we're dealing with is not just a Kodak camera taking pictures. Accurately predicting what's going to happen to the environment on Earth this century is the big scientific challenge."

Sea surface Gibraltar (Courtesy NERC)
Sea temperatures are able to be seen in satellite images
Prof O'Neill explained that earth observation was a relatively new science but the number of measurements and methods of recording the ever changing environment on Earth had increased.

"No one else has pulled these elements together. Using a number of universities and activities such as the Southampton oceanography centre and the Met Office we created a nucleus and a hub to build on," Prof O'Neill added.

"We'd have a limited view of the world if we just put out buoys or used ships."

The NCEO will use a number of satellites to obtain images alongside data from space stations.

The illness in Planet Earth
06 Jul 06 |  Science/Nature
Global warming: Crisis for Earth?
03 Jul 06 |  Science/Nature


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