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December 01, 2023

Earth Systems Predictability Forum final report maps out path for long-term human wellbeing

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With support and guidance from ESA Φ-lab, the Earth Systems Predictability (ESP) Forum earlier this year brought together over 150 top experts to explore how Earth observation (EO) in concert with artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies can help us make decisions on the future of our planet. The final report, which sets forth a far-reaching vision for ESP and its development, is now available.

ESA and the European Commission’s recent announcement on joint efforts to address climate change highlights once again the crucial importance of EO in advancing our understanding of the Earth’s systems and their impact on global warming. ESA has many climate initiatives already in progress, including the Space for a Green Future Accelerators and the Climate Change Initiative, along with developing comprehensive modelling of the planet through Digital Twin Earth and its pivotal role in DestinE. The ESP Forum adds a significant piece to the jigsaw by seeking to bridge the gap between the knowledge gained through climate change sensing and modelling on the one hand and the required climate action and decision-making on the other.

ESP is described as an emerging discipline that combines elements from EO, AI, simulation, visualisation and decision support. It aims to build on Earth digital twins and provide an accessible, distributed platform that is integrated with everyday life. The forum was held in May of this year, organised by Trillium Technologies, ESA Φ-lab and Oxford University. With its solid experience in groundbreaking innovation in AI, machine learning and digital twinning based on EO assets, Φ-lab was well placed to offer a guiding hand on the proceedings and reporting.

The forum was the result of months of extensive preparation, with the specialist participants engaged in shaping the agenda, the open research questions and the suggested innovation approaches to be discussed and developed during the three-day event.

After releasing provisional conclusions from the event in July, the full ESP Forum report has now been published and can be viewed directly at the foot of the page, or online here.

The report affirms that the foundations of ESP rest on fundamental building blocks such as data from Earth and space, trustworthy and generative AI, AI-based weather and climate models and scaled systems. A detailed deployment vision is set out in the text, drawing on existing work in a variety of disciplines comprising Earth digital twinning, large-scale simulations, finance, environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG), social return on investment, and decision intelligence.

The final section of the report is an exhaustive ESP roadmap that seeks to provide context for the reader to take action. The roadmap includes technical elements linked to areas such as digital twin Earth visualisation, mobile interface technology, onboard ML, MLOps for ESP, and anthropospheric models and data.

Other key findings include:

  • ESP should be envisioned as a ubiquitous decision-support technology, spanning orders-of-magnitude in scale, from lightweight software modules running on mobile devices, to sophisticated cloud-native Earth digital twins
  • Compelling visualisations and interactive interfaces are essential components of ESP technology, helping to craft narratives around planetary stewardship and support confident mission-critical decisions
  • ESP must be developed from the ground-up in close cooperation with the people who will use the technology to make everyday decisions.

To know more: ESA Φ-lab, Trillium Technologies, Oxford University, ESP Forum