ceos   eesa
spacer Preface

Twenty years after the first edition of the CEOS Handbook was prepared for the Rio Summit in 1992, this special edition, prepared in support of the Rio+20 Summit, explores society’s increasing need for information on our planet, the essential foundation for sustainable development policies that are aimed at ensuring our continued health and prosperity in the face of human-made climate change, population growth and degradation of our natural environment.

It explains the important role of Earth observation satellite programmes in fulfilling these information needs. It presents the status and plans for future Earth observation satellite programmes of governments worldwide, through their national and regional space agencies, and describes how the data and information that they supply relate to some of society’s most pressing needs for information on Earth System processes and our interaction with them.

The role of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), the body with responsibility for coordination of government-funded satellite programmes worldwide, is explained, including its relation to the various global observing systems, in particular the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

It is hoped that this report will prove to be a valuable source of information concerning the possible application and value of the data and information from Earth observation satellites. It should be of interest to a wide range of groups: those with responsibility for national/international development policy; those responsible for programmes with requirements for observations to enable understanding of our environment and its processes; and those needing information for decision-making in many socio-economic sectors. The role of satellite Earth observations in support of the definition and execution of the major environmental conventions is a particular focus in this edition.

It is further hoped that this report will be of educational value, helping to explain some of the techniques and technologies underlying satellite Earth observation and making the subject as accessible as possible to the lay person who would like to investigate further.

spacer As an up-to-date and comprehensive compilation of CEOS Agency plans, the report provides a handy reference source on current and future civil Earth observation programmes. It also provides details of points of contact within CEOS and lists Internet sources for those requiring more information.

Part I of the Handbook discusses changes in the Earth System over the 20 years since Rio, exploring the causes, the effects and the trends (section 1). It explains the important role for satellite Earth observations (section 2) and for CEOS (section 3). Future challenges are discussed in section 4.

Part II presents a number of case studies (section 5) to illustrate the use of Earth observation satellites supporting the provision of information for our understanding in key areas.

Part III of the Handbook summarises Earth observation satellite capabilities and plans, including a description of the various types of satellite missions and instruments and their applications (section 6). For those interested in particular measurements (e.g. of ozone or ocean temperature), section 7 provides details of 27 different parameters and the plans for their observation during the coming decades. Sections 8 and 9 contain catalogues of satellite missions and instruments, respectively.

The annexes include:
A. Further information on CEOS
B. Abbreviations

The full Handbook texts are available online at The database of the satellite missions, instruments and measurements is online at and contains powerful search and presentation tools, with the ability to export customised tables and timelines in support of analyses of current and planned provision of observations in support of different applications and measurements.