Significant Leap in Earth Observation Technology

In an important step towards the further development of earth observation satellites, the European Space Agency (ESA) is launching the CIMR L2PAD project. The University of Bremen is participating in the project by developing new algorithms for the future CIMR satellites.

The L2PAD (Level 2 Prototype and Algorithm Development) ESA project aims to develop prototypes of the algorithms for the future Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer (CIMR) satellites. The development is being carried out under the leadership of the Meteorological Institute of Norway (MET Norway) and in collaboration with ten international partners, including the University of Bremen and organizations from France, Spain, and Italy, among others. The processor lays the foundation for the scientific and operational use of the data collected by CIMR. The first CIMR satellite is expected to be launched at the end of the 2020s. Its main instrument is a multi-frequency microwave radiometer with greatly improved resolution and its main tasks include measuring the sea surface temperature, recording the sea ice concentration, and determining the salinity of the sea surface.

Environmental physicist Dr. Gunnar Spreen from the University of Bremen and his team are developing algorithms for some of the sea ice parameters for the satellite within L2PAD. He explains: "We have been developing methods to determine sea ice parameters from satellite microwave radiometers for a long time. We know that the Arctic summer sea ice has halved over the last 40 years. With CIMR, for the first time in Europe, we will have an instrument that offers better quality and spatial resolution than any sensor of its kind before." In L2PAD, the Bremen team is concentrating on determining the thickness of thin ice, distinguishing between different types of ice, and estimating the depth of snow on the sea ice.

A Fusion of Research and Implementation

The CIMR L2PAD initiative is a fusion of research and careful documentation of algorithms to determine geophysical parameters that will later be implemented in a comprehensive prototype. The design and implementation will play a crucial role in the success of the project.

"A special feature of the CIMR L2PAD project is the goal of transparent and reproducible science by making data and software accessible as early as possible. The Algorithm Theoretical Basis Documents (ATBDs) will be developed as web pages based on JupyterBook technology, and all software will be open source. Such an open source science approach was at the core of the work envisioned by ESA," says Thomas Lavergne from MET Norway.

One of the challenges the CIMR-L2PAD team will face will be to validate the algorithms with simulated data, as the CIMR satellite has not yet been launched. This validation process will ensure the accuracy and reliability of the algorithms used in the ground segment. The scope of the CIMR L2PAD project includes 20 geophysical parameters, including sea ice (with multiple variables), sea surface temperature, salinity, ocean wind, land snow, soil moisture, and vegetation.

Interdisciplinary Consortium for Best Results

The consortium led by the Meteorological Institute (MET) comprises a total of 12 partners, mainly from Europe, as well as one Canadian partner. The consortium consists of a mix of research institutes, universities, and private IT companies, such as Deimos Romania and Science & Technologies Norway, to ensure a well-rounded expertise. This collaboration underlines the importance of public-private partnerships in advancing space research and technology. ESA has provided the CIMR L2PAD project with a very detailed work plan with numerous reports and milestones. The ESA division of ESRIN, Italy, which is responsible for the development and management of ground segments for many Earth observation satellites, including for example CryoSat-2, SMOS and CIMR, supervises the project.

Kick-Off in November

The kick-off meeting took place in the second half of November. The first three months of the project are expected to be extremely intensive and will include the preparation of over 20 draft ATBDs and the design documentation for the prototype.



Dr. Gunnar Spreen

Institute of Environmental Physics

University of Bremen

Phone: +49 421 218-62158

Email: gunnar.spreenprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de


[Translate to English:] An illustration of a satellite in space. It has a large microwave radiometer mounted on it. On earth you can see the Arctic.
The CIMR satellite mission will carry a long-range, multi-frequency microwave radiometer to measure sea surface temperature, sea ice concentration, and sea surface salinity.