The pressure on water resources is steadily increasing due to population growth and increasing wealth for part of the population. Climate change adds to this pressure, e.g. through more frequent and intense heat waves and droughts, and also disturbs the water cycle through more frequent floods.
In order to tackle such challenges we need to further advance the way we observe, understand, and predict the evolution of the water cycle and its interactions with human activities and ecosystems.
In this decade ESA, several other space agencies and private organisations have been and are developing a unique observation infrastructure in space, including an extraordinary and complementary suite of sensors on board Copernicus Sentinels series, ESA’s Earth Explorers, coming meteorological missions and different EO observation satellites planned to be launched by national space agencies and private operators in Europe.
This comes at a time where novel information and computing technologies, Artificial Intelligence, cloud computing and digital platform capabilities are opening the door to new and advanced ways to implement open science and develop novel applications and services.
The unprecedented potential for water cycle science and hydrology of this exceptional set of capabilities is far from being reached and needs to be fully explored and exploited. This requires an integrated approach to the water cycle which exploits both observations (satellite and in situ) and modelling and cross-domain research (ocean, land and atmosphere).
Motivated by these challenges and opportunities the ESA Hydrology Science Cluster was launched on 28 November 2023 in Lisbon during Hydrospace 2023 in order to promote networking, collaborative research, and international collaboration in the domain of Earth Observation for Hydrology and Water Cycle Science. This involves the funding of a series of projects targeted at addressing specific challenges in terms of data requirements, data-model interfaces and the provision of appropriate data products that are consistent and well-characterised over time.
Through this Cluster, ESA aims at contributing to the establishment of a strong European hydrology and water cycle research area in close collaboration with the European Commission Directorate General for Research and Innovation and other European and international partners. Over the next years, ESA is planning a number of activities and opportunities to bring the cluster to life as part of the ESA FutureEO programme, in coordination with other ESA activities such as the Climate Change Initiative and the dedicated mission developments under the Earth Explorer and Copernicus Sentinel Expansion and Next Generation lines.
For more information about the ESA Hydrology Science Cluster, the on-going projects and the coming opportunities, please, visit the dedicated page.