Copernicus: ‘big data’, a shield against climate change
The first hundred days of 2021 have not even elapsed and truly amazing meteorological phenomena have already been experienced at various latitudes. The closest example in Spain is that of the storm Filomena, which at the beginning of January became the biggest snow storm in the country in the last fifty years. Also a few weeks ago, the US state of Texas experienced a cold wave that included, as in the previous case, the largest snowfall in its history.
These exceptional and shocking events are derived from climate variability, a concept that refers to extreme weather conditions but which are temporary and transitory. Climate variability is not the same as climate change. This last notion, on the contrary, indicates variations in the mean of the earth’s temperature and environmental conditions along a longer and more constant time scale. As in the previous case, however, climate change implies a greater frequency and intensity of some extreme phenomena, such as heat waves, droughts or torrential rains.
“In this context of disturbances, the ability to collect and interpret the enormous amount of long-term climate data on a continuous basis represents a fundamental tool to understand whether exceptional meteorological phenomena such as those referred to can be considered isolated events or indicators of important changes in the climatic conditions of the planet ”, affirms Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). This body works to make key information available to society on the past, present and future climate situation of the planet.
The important work of C3S
As part of Copernicus program of the European Union, the C3S is in charge of processing big data –Large volumes of complex data– to convert this massive information into quality indicators, uniform and easy to understand, use and exchange to offer them free of charge through an open data policy, indicates the head of the Copernicus Climate Change Service. This EU office, according to Carlo Buentempo, “develops technological tools so that all actors involved in the fight against climate change have information to better understand environmental conditions, make more efficient decisions and define effective plans to reduce climate risks ”. Governments, organizations, scientists, companies and the general public have access to this data for their corresponding analysis.
It is a very important informative reference, especially for Spain, one of the European countries with the greatest climatic diversity. For this reason, on March 24 and 25, in collaboration with the Spanish Meteorological Agency (AEMET) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center-National Supercomputing Center (BSC), the Copernicus Climate Change Service organizes a virtual event with the title Challenges and solutions in Spain. This forum will give participants the opportunity to exchange experiences and interact with ministers, mayors, experts and representatives of the Spanish business fabric to help the country’s socio-economic actors to address the challenges posed by climate change.
The Copernicus Climate Change Service, which is operated by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (CEPMPM), highlights how the efficient use of climatological data enables the development of highly helpful operational solutions, especially for the most vulnerable sectors. “The ultimate goal is for society to be better prepared to face climate change, which especially affects the coasts and the warmer and drier areas of the Iberian Peninsula and its islands. In fact, the data show that Barcelona and Valencia are among the most exposed European cities, and phenomena such as heat waves, floods, storms or droughts will be increasingly frequent ”, underlines the director of the C3S.
Anticipate and adapt to climate change
Learning to use climate data is not only essential to understand and protect the environment from present and future adversities, but it represents a key resource for all those who need to make climate-smart decisions to better adapt to climate change. Sectors such as energy, water and agriculture can benefit from this information. Not surprisingly, there are concrete examples of projects in Spain where the Copernicus Climate Change Service indicators help to improve the management of natural resources. “It is the case of the Júcar river basin, where the presence of wetlands, such as the Albufera, together with local water demand and drought, increase the vulnerability of the river’s water exploitation system. Here the climatic indicators of the C3S facilitate the planning and efficient management of this important water resource ”, emphasizes Carlo Buontempo.
According to data recently published by the C3S, 2020 was the warmest year in history in Europe and the last of a decade with extremely high temperatures for the old continent. This demonstrates the urgency of preventing adverse climate impacts that could increase in the future and the importance of meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal to reduce emissions, as well as the priority task of promoting more sustainable growth. Only in this way will society deal effectively with climate change. “The next fifty years will be key to counteract the global warming trend and to help the most vulnerable regions to face this very important challenge”, concludes the head of the Copernicus Climate Change Service.