Strong Nansen Center presence at the ESA Living Planet Symposium

The European Space Agency (ESA) arranges the Living Planet Symposium (LPS) every third year. It is the biggest Earth observation conference in the world, and it offers fantastic options to present research findings to scientists and data users and discuss the importance of Earth observations in the future. This year’s topic of LPS was “Taking the pulse of our planet from space”, an objective that overlaps with the Nansen Center’s strategy, as remote sensing is one of the legs we stand on.   

Our center’s geographical focus for using Earth observations is primarily the northern North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. Sea ice dynamics and mesoscale upper ocean processes in these areas receive a lot of attention from our researchers. They work with remote sensing for Earth observations, using satellite data in models, and developing advanced tools and analysis methods, some of which include the use of machine learning. Several of our researchers participated in LPS in Bonn this May, presenting their research tied to these fields. They were able to show and discuss their findings, network, and get inspiration for advancing their own research.


Results related to remote sensing

Our researchers presented several innovations related to the use of remote sensing products. SAR data from the ongoing satellite mission Sentinel-1 can be used to retrieve information on sea ice, and Anton Korosov presented his work on improving sea-ice deformation characterisation and sea-ice classification. This allows for better manual sea-ice forecasts used for navigation in the Arctic, as well as for automated forecasts by sea-ice models also using SAR data. 

SAR data from Sentinel-1 have many more applications: Artem Moiseev uses SAS data to make more accurate estimations of ocean surface currents. Such currents have impacts on weather patterns and the climate as they transport heat around the globe. They are also responsible for moving other things in the ocean, such as for example oil from spills, plastic waste, or damaged boats or people in need of rescue. More accurate estimations of ocean surface currents therefore improve marine and environmental safety. Several of our researchers also presented their ongoing work on how to combine satellite data with in-situ measurements from Argo floats in the ocean to better analyse three-dimensional ocean features such as eddies (Johnny Johannessen, Antonio Bonaduce, Roshin R. Raj). And Fabio Mangini presented his PhD work on sea-level variability and change along the Norwegian coast, comparing satellite data and in-situ measurements. His finding that satellite data can be used to reliably determine regional sea-level variations along Norway’s coastline is relevant for predicting future changes along coastlines, helping society to mitigate effects of climate change.

Artem Moiseev presenting his work on ocean surface current estimations. Photo: Johnny Johannessen/NERSCArtem Moiseev presenting his work on ocean surface current estimations. Photo: Johnny Johannessen/NERSC

Results related to sea-ice modelling

Our sea-ice model neXtSIM received considerable attention during the conference, which might sound a bit surprising at first, as the conference has a focus on Earth Observation from space. neXtSIM has improved drastically in the past years thanks to hard work and is currently one of the best sea-ice forecasting models in the world. Our researchers involved in developing the model use satellite observations to validate and calibrate it properly. Two oral presentations featured videos showing how reliably neXtSIM can forecast sea ice in the Arctic (Guillaume Boutin, Julien Brajard), and several posters addressed related findings around how well the model performs today and how we got there (Anton Korosov, Heather Regan, Jonathan Rheinlænder, Sukun Cheng). Another highlight was the work done by Jonathan Rheinlænder: He and his colleagues defined the driving mechanisms of an extreme sea-ice breakup event in the Beaufort Sea in 2013 captured by satellites and they showed that neXtSIM can reproduce timing, location, and propagation of fractures in the sea ice that are caused by winds during that event. In the context of sea ice, Julien Brajard also presented his work on how to use machine learning to obtain very high-resolution information on sea-ice thickness. In general, the connection between satellite observations and the sea-ice model triggered very good feedback and a lot of questions from the audience, says Anton Korosov.

Guillaume Boutin presenting his work on coupling neXtSIM to an ocean model to improve sea-ice forecasts. Photo: Heather Regan/NERSCGuillaume Boutin presenting his work on coupling neXtSIM to an ocean model to improve sea-ice forecasts. Photo: Heather Regan/NERSC

Session chairs and scientific experts

Some of our researchers also had some additional roles during the conference. Julien Brajard co-chaired a session on data assimilation and machine learning for the Earth system, and Artem Moiseev co-chaired a session focusing on the use of modern remote sensing technology to detect small-scale processes. Johnny Johannessen served as scientific expert during two interactive sessions in which ESA head of departments, officers, and leading scientists interact together and engage with the audience to stimulate discussions. One session revolved around the “Oceanographic Change of the Arctic Ocean from Space”, while the other one was “Towards a New ESA Earth Observation Science Strategy”. He also presented the outcome of the Independent Science Review 2021, which was linked with the major scientific challenges defined by the World Climate Research Program and the Global Climate Observing System.  

Johnny Johannessen (right side) during an interactive session, discussing with Fabrice Adhuin and Bertrand Chapron. Photo: Guillaume Boutin/NERSCJohnny Johannessen (right side) during an interactive session, discussing with Fabrice Adhuin and Bertrand Chapron. Photo: Guillaume Boutin/NERSC

The social aspect

Aside from the spectacular science being presented and discussed, our researchers also appreciated the social aspect of the conference. Antonio Bonaduce said: “ESA LPS22 offered a unique possibility to finally meet with colleagues and friends in a vibrant scientific environment that gave all of us the feeling of moving forward after the last challenging years.”


Many more NERSC researchers than those mentioned have contributed to the findings that were presented at the Living Planet Symposium 2022.

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