Observation Strategy

Set up a mobile observing system for highly dynamic events
The MOSES facility is designed to decipher the interactions of short-term events and long-term trends in Earth and environmental systems. MOSES follows a “system of systems” approach, combining sensors across disciplines and compartments to allow for integrated observations of highly dynamic events. The nine Helmholtz Centres of the “Earth and Environment” research field provide sensor and observing systems which are combined into “modules”. MOSES modules are developed to measure environmental states and fluxes as well as processes related to energy, water, nutrient and greenhouse gas cycles by utilizing a cross-compartmental approach.

MOSES approach

The modules will be set up to integrate observations in the atmosphere, at the land surface, in coastal regions, in the ocean and in the cryosphere. The observation strategy involves the following tasks:

MOSES targets four event chains: heat waves, hydrological extremes, ocean eddies and the thawing of permafrost. These events were chosen due to their relevance to climate und environmental change and their socio-economic impacts. MOSES modules are designed to fully capture direct impacts of these events on the affected Earth and environmental systems. To meet this aim, an event chain approach was developed. An observation campaign starts by recording the initial events with respect to their extent and intensity. It will then capture the triggered processes across and along the surrounding Earth compartments. It is the intention of MOSES observation campaigns to record events in a cross-compartmental approach. During the implementation phase from 2017 to 2021, observation campaigns along these four event chains will serve as examples to develop the event-driven observation concept. Additional event chains may be included later on.

The event-driven and at the same time cross-compartmental observation approach breaks new ground in science and observation technology. Event-driven observation campaigns represent a logistical and organizational challenge. During the MOSES implementation phase from 2017 to 2021 the campaign management concept will be elaborated and implemented. Test campaigns start in 2018 and will continue until 2021 with increasing complexity until full event chains can be covered. Regular MOSES operation will start in 2022. The intention is then to perform 1 to 2 full campaigns per year.

For campaigns intended to investigate ocean eddies and permafrost thaw cycles, it is important to capture the right location (“hot spot”). Observation campaigns for both events allow for a fairly reliable time schedule. The observing systems must be highly mobile to spot and track these events through their life cycles of a few months. Heat waves and hydrological extremes are less predictable with respect to both place and time (“hot spot, hot moment”). In the last 15 years, increasing frequencies and intensities were observed for both events, particularly in Europe, and future climate change scenarios predict a further increase. Hence, there is a high probability of capturing these events often enough within the next decade. Due to the stochastic nature of these events, an alert system needs to be established for ad hoc campaigns, providing reserved observing systems and staff on demand.

The intention is to carry out the event-driven observation campaigns within assigned timeframes. Permafrost and ocean eddy campaigns can be scheduled within fixed timeframes, while heat wave and hydrological extreme campaigns operate within assigned alert timeframes. Both the heat wave and the hydrological extreme communities need to elaborate task force plans for rapid operational readiness. At the occurrence of natural hazards, operational MOSES observing systems will be made available.

To unravel the impacts of dynamic and mainly stochastic events on Earth and environmental systems, MOSES event-oriented data sets must be analyzed in combination with large-scale and long-term monitoring data. The observation of “events versus trends” depends on the availability of long-term and large-scale data, which will be primarily retrieved from:

  • The Helmholtz observatories providing high-quality, long-term data sets
  • Global long-term Earth and environment monitoring networks (e.g. ICOS, LTER, GOOS, AERONET)
  • Ongoing and planned satellite missions (e.g. MODIS, TerraSAR-X, Grace and Grace-Fo, Sentinels)
MOSES aims to provide high-quality data and data products for improving our understanding of terrestrial, oceanic and atmospheric processes and fluxes triggered by such events. This knowledge is a prerequisite for improved prediction of the expected environmental, social and economic consequences of events and their feedbacks on climate as well as for the design and implementation of protective measures.

MOSES complements and extends international monitoring networks and Earth observation efforts with data sets of single events and their direct impacts on the surrounding Earth compartments that provide unprecedentedly high spatial and temporal resolution. The facility extends existing observation capacities towards highly mobile, flexible and cross-compartmental systems. MOSES is designed to advance existing observation techniques by:

  • Providing spatially and temporally highly resolved data sets on the extent of events and their direct impacts on trends in the surrounding Earth compartments
  • Providing observing systems for supplementary measurements within existing monitoring networks to significantly improve their spatial and temporal coverage during events
  • Providing observing systems for measurements with multi-parameter observation modules for comprehensive in-depth process investigations during events

The technical innovations necessary for the development of the MOSES modules will promote progress in Earth observation technology, particularly with respect to minimization, automation and the design of cost-efficient multi-parameter sensor systems.