Copernicus Evolution – Research for Transitional-water Observations

Funded by European Commission (Horizon 2020).

Collaboration with Brockmann Consult, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy and Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

Water quality is a worldwide issue and recognised as central in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals number 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and 14 (Life Below Water). Access to water of good quality is crucial for human drinking, food production, both terrestrial and coastal aquaculture and fisheries, and safe recreational exploitation. Additionally, maintenance of water quality is a fundamental consideration in industrial activities on land, along the coast or offshore. The maintenance of good water quality is enshrined in European policy though the Water Framework Directive (inland) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (coastal and offshore). Natural variability, notably in times of potential climate change is of high significance in academia and industry alike. Recognising the importance of water quality, the Copernicus programme is addressing end-user needs for water quality information through observations from the Sentinel series of spacecraft and data provision from the Copernicus Services. Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) provides a global water quality product encompassing the entre satellite record (1997-2019) focussing on oceanic and shelf water; Copernicus Marine Environment Service (CMEMS) provides global data (brokered from C3S) as well as specific regional products for European seas; Copernicus Global Land Service (CGLOPS) has recently started providing observational capability for inland water-bodies. The Copernicus Services are supported by research and development from the ESA Climate Change Initiative which now includes both Ocean Colour CCI (v4 climate data record available) and CCI+ Lakes which includes lake colour amongst other thematic variables. However, the division of optical water quality between three services that have largely evolved independently, means that there are differences in methodology as well as gaps in provision, such as in complex near-shore environments like estuaries, lagoons, bays and large rivers. This means that industrial actors, or monitoring agencies whose remit covers coastal, estuarine or lake environments, or scientists interested in connected lake-river-sea systems (notably in the developing DANUBIUS European Research Infrastructure), would need to go to 2 or 3 services and obtain products that are in different formats, processed with different methods and with different characteristics. Whilst in other cases potential users have no data available from Copernicus (e.g. in estuaries). These users would also need considerable expertise in remote sensing to judge which sources are most relevant to their needs, in situations where there is overlap. The aim therefore of CAUSEWAYS is to conduct the R&D necessary to provide seamless water colour products available for industry and academia by harmonising production approaches, and developing novel data abstraction/extraction tools and test methods for important, so-far neglected regions, such as estuaries, bays, deltas, and lagoons. The harmonized methodology will be fully documented and validated to provide an acceptable common standardized method. At the same time, it will be able to evolve when new sensors, sensor calibrations, or data interpretation techniques (primarily atmospheric correction) become available. The algorithms developed will made be available to the wider scientific community through established open-source toolboxes [primarily SNAP]. CAUSEWAYS will do this through x cases studies based around applications of XX, YY and ZZ (e.g. aquaculture, eutrophication….) in complex transitional waters around Europe. It will bring together the two key in situ data sets (the OC CCI database and the UK GloboLakes database) to test methods in ocean, shelf, coastal, estuary and lake environments. The project will interact closely with GEO AquaWatch and Blue Planet and the nascent Lagoons for Life community. The impacts of this project will be a simplified, harmonized and well-characterized optical water quality services landscape, increased confidence in the basic methodology used to produce water colour in the services, and ultimately increased uptake of Copernicus data services, to build on European industrial leadership in water quality, allowing industry to create downstream methods and products for the Copernicus service portfolio.

Total award value £259,957.99

People (3)


Professor Andrew Tyler

Professor Andrew Tyler

Scotland Hydro Nation Chair, BES

Dr Evangelos Spyrakos

Dr Evangelos Spyrakos

Associate Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Dr Peter Hunter

Dr Peter Hunter

SIEC/Forth-ERA Science Director, Scotland's International Environment Centre

Outputs (1)



Jiang D, Matsushita B, Pahlevan N, Gurlin D, Fichot CG, Harringmeyer J, Sent G, Brito AC, Brotas V, Werther M, Mascarenhas V, Blake M, Hunter P, Tyler A & Spyrakos E (2023) Estimating the concentration of total suspended solids in inland and coastal waters from Sentinel-2 MSI: A semi-analytical approach. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 204, pp. 362-377.


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