Satellites and World Heritage Sites, Partners to Understand Climate Change

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Introduction

In the area of climate change, space-based sensors have the capacity to provide measurements of essential variables. Overall comprehensive monitoring using space technologies is made possible through collaboration among nations around the globe.

World Vegetation and Forests: the World’s Lungs

Climate change and forests are intrinsically linked. Plants and especially forests absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, convert it through photosynthesis into carbon that they store and emit oxygen, making our planet habitable.

Effects of Climate Change in Africa


Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change with the least adaptive capacity. In Africa, areas potentially subject to desertification cover 43% of the continent’s land area, on which 270 million people live (40% of the continent’s population).

Effects of Climate Change in Asia

The combustion of fossil fuels and biomass is the most significant source of air pollutants; it is also the major human-produced source of CO2, one of the main greenhouse gases. Asia is one of the major contributors of such gases.

Effects of Climate Change in Europe

The average temperature in Europe has increased by about 1.4°C compared to pre-industrial levels and it is projected to increase by 2.1 to 4.4°C by 2080. Sea levels are rising and glacier melting is accelerating. Sea level is projected to rise 18 to 59 cm by 2100.

Effects of Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean is projected to be significantly affected by climate change: rising sea levels, increasing frequency of hurricanes and storms, more pronounced droughts and floods associated with El Niño events and declining water supplies stored in glaciers. Tropical cyclones will increase in terms of frequency and intensity, affecting coastal areas and the small islands states of the Caribbean in particular.

Effects of Climate Change in North America

Although total energy consumption has increased in North America since 1987, notable progress has been made in energy efficiency. The energy sector is still a major CO2 emitter. The United States and Canada account respectively for 23% and 2.2% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Effects of Climate Change in Oceania

Since 1950, temperatures have risen by 0.4 to 0.7 °C, with more heat waves and a 70 mm rise in sea level. Floods, landslides, droughts and storm surges should become more frequent and intense, while snow and frost should become less frequent in this region.

Floods in Venice

The combination of human actions and global sea-level changes has resulted in a net rising of the sea level in Venice. In the recent past, the frequency of flooding and damage to this city has greatly increased: eight of the ten highest tides of the past century have occurred since 1960.

Intensification of ENSO Effects in the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are a unique “living museum and showcase of evolution” . Their ecosystems are high in diversity and endemism and home to unusual animal lifeforms, including the land iguana and the giant tortoise.

Disappearance of Glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro

At 5,895 m, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa. Its glaciers have persisted for at least 10,000 years. However, the effects of global climate change, combined with human activities, have resulted in the loss of 80% of the area covered by glaciers on Kilimanjaro during the 20th century.

Loss of Corals, Mangroves and Turtles in the Komodo National Park

The satellite image shows the sea, coral and mangrove beaches of Komodo. This park features some of the world’s most diverse coral reefs and is famous for the last remaining habitat of the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), which exists nowhere else in the world.

Loss of Permafrost in the Golden Mountains of Altai

The Scythians built burial tombs (know as kurgans) in the Altai region (Siberia). These are uniquely situated in a permafrost zone. Permafrost is defined as soil that is below 0°C for two years or more.

Uxmal: Possible migration of a civilization due to climate change

The Maya city of Uxmal, in Yucatán, was founded in 700 A.D. It was the centre of the Puuc region and its population reached around 25,000 inhabitants.

Understanding and Protecting the Virunga National Park Carbon Sink

The Virunga Volcanoes are situated in the Alberine Rift where Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) meet. The area host more endemic vertebrate species than any other region of mainland Africa.

Coral Bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef

Corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae called zooxanthellae, which provide their colouration. Under stress, corals may release the zooxanthellae, thus losing their colour.

Floods Risks in the World Heritage Sites of London

Since the beginning of humankind, people have established their settlements near seas or rivers. Climate change and the eventual consequences of rising sea levels will affect many historic sites.

Threatened Earth Structures in the Chan Chan Archaeological Zone

Chan Chan is one of the most important Pre-Hispanic earthen architecture cities on the American continent. Intense rainfall is damaging the base of the earthen structures.

Loss of Wetlands in Ichkeul National Park

The construction of dams on three of the rivers supplying Lake Ichkeul and its marshes led to long periods of drought between 1993 and 2002, reducing much of the freshwater inflow and resulting in a relative increase of the saltwater inflow. In addition, observations of the Ichkeul Region show a decrease in rain since the 1930s. Satellite images show that the water surface has reduced as a consequence.

Destruction of the Mangrove Forest in the Sundarbans

With over 10,000 km² of land and water, the Sundarbans mangrove forests are the largest in the world. They host a rich biodiversity: 260 bird species, Indian otters, spotted deer, wild boar, fiddler crabs, mud crabs, three marine lizard species, and five marine turtle species.

Glacial Recession in the Ilulissat Icefjord

Located in Greenland, this glacier plays a central role in the study of glaciology and climate variability: it is an outstanding remnant of the last ice age of the Quaternary Period.

Calakmul, Mexico’s “Natural Lung”

Calakmul is the largest tropical forest reserve in Mexico, covering 723,185 ha. This unique ecosystem includes tropical forest cover with rich soil and Mayan water reservoirs or aguadas, which provide water for both fauna and human use.

Effects of Desertification on the Mosques of Timbuktu

Timbuktu was an intellectual and spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Although its monuments are continuously restored, current desertification enhances desert encroachment and sand storms: the site is under threat.

Shrinking Glaciers on Mount Everest

The Sagarmatha National Park is an exceptional area with dramatic mountains, glaciers and deep valleys where Mount Everest (or Sagarmatha in Nepali), the highest peak in the world (8,848 m), is located. Several rare species, such as the snow leopard and the lesser panda, are found in the park.

Hurricane Threats in Cancun

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in the future hurricanes will almost certainly be more intense, with stronger winds and precipitations combined with a continuous rise in the tropical seas’ surface temperatures.

 

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