Journal:Grand challenges in environmental informatics

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Full article title Grand challenges in environmental informatics
Journal Frontiers in Environmental Science
Author(s) Kokhanovsky, Alexander
Author affiliation(s) EUMETSAT
Primary contact E-mail: :
Editors Casazza, Marco (Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy)
Year published 2014
Volume and issue 1
Page(s) 5
DOI 10.3389/fenvs.2013.00005
ISSN 2296-665X
Distribution license Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
Download (PDF)

We live in an era of environmental deterioration through depletion and degradation of resources such as air, water, and soil; the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of wildlife.[1][2][3][4][5] As a matter of fact, environmental degradation is one of three main threats identified in 2004 by the High Level Threat Panel of the United Nations, the other two being poverty and infectious diseases. In particular, air pollution ranked seventh on the worldwide list of risk factors, contributing to approximately three million deaths each year. Air pollution is especially considerable in growing and emerging economies[6][7] (see, for instance, Figure 1). Therefore, environmental studies are of great importance and they stand at the forefront of modern science ( Environmental research is a multi-disciplinary science because it comprises various branches of studies like chemistry, physics, medical science, life science, agriculture, public health, sanitary engineering, etc.

Figure 1. The pollution in Beijing (

Environmental informatics is an integrator of science, methods and techniques for serving environmental engineering needs. It provides the information processing and communication infrastructure to the interdisciplinary field of environmental sciences aiming at data, information, and knowledge integration, the application of computational intelligence to environmental data as well as the identification of environmental impacts of information technology. The important tasks of the environmental informatics are the data interpretation, their collection, storage, processing, and display.[8]

One important area of environmental informatics is the acquisition of data related to remote sensing of atmosphere, vegetation, and ocean using optical, thermal infrared and microwave instruments (ground/ship-based, airborne, and satellite). Satellite remote sensing is of particular importance.[9] Environmental problems being global need global observation systems, which can only be achieved by using observations from satellite platforms. A great number of instruments have been installed on satellite platforms since satellite technology begun with the launch of Sputnik in 1957. They enable a much better understanding of the patterns of global atmospheric pollution by aerosol particles and also by various trace gases, land use, etc.

Despite significant scientific progress in the last decade, many domains of uncertainty still remain. In particular, the methods for the estimation of aerosol load using space-borne instrumentation must be greatly improved using multi-angular spectropolarimetry. The algorithms for the current spectrometers and radiometers require a number of a priori assumptions, which could potentially bias retrievals and lead to the underestimation (or overestimation) of the aerosol impact on the environment and climate.

Considerable improvement of the methods for the determination of atmospheric pollution from space is needed.[10] The influence of trace gases, aerosol, and especially clouds (including polluted ice and water clouds) on the weather and climate requires more thorough studies based on the analysis of a large volume of data. Here, environmental informatics plays an important role. Mathematical methods must also be further improved for the solution of inverse problems[11], systems modeling, and optimization. The new approaches should be developed. Computer graphics and visualization for environmental decision support must be used on a far larger scale. It is anticipated that further developments will lead to the creation of better tools for environmental monitoring and control using both ground and satellite observation systems. This will enable more thorough decision and risk analysis for the environmental management.[12][13]

Keywords: Keywords: environment, information technology, remote sensing, aerosol, trace gases


  1. Kondratyev, K.Y. (1998). Multidimensional Global Change (1st ed.). Wiley. pp. 776. ISBN 9780471971795. 
  2. Kondratyev, K.Y.; Krapivin, V.F.; Savinykh, V.P.; Varotsos, C.A. (2004). Global Ecodynamics. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. pp. 687. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-18636-3. ISBN 9783540204763. 
  3. Cracknell, A.P.; Varotsos, C.A.; Krapivin, V.F. (2009). Global Climatology and Ecodynamics. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. pp. 518. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-78209-4. ISBN 9783540782094. 
  4. Hansen, J.; Kharecha, P.; Sato, M. et al. (2013). "Assessing "dangerous climate change": Required reduction of carbon emissions to protect young people, future generations and nature". PLoS One 8 (12): e81648. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081648. PMC PMC3849278. PMID 24312568. 
  5. Freedman, B., ed. (2014). Global Environmental Change. Springer Netherlands. pp. 973. ISBN 9789400757837. 
  6. Ramanathan, V.; Feng, Y. (2009). "Air pollution, greenhouse gases and climate change: Global and regional perspectives". Atmospheric Environment 43 (1): 37–50. doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2008.09.063. 
  7. Rao, S.; Pachauri, S.; Dentener, F. (2013). "Better air for better health: Forging synergies in policies for energy access, climate change and air pollution". Global Environmental Change 23 (5): 1122–1130. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.05.003. 
  8. Hilty, L.M.; Page, B.; Radermacher, F.J.; Riekert, W.-F. (1995). "Environmental informatics as a new discipline of applied computer science". In Avouris, N.M.; Page, B.. Environmental Informatics. Springer Netherlands. pp. 1–11. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-1443-3_1. ISBN 9789401714433. 
  9. Burrows, J.P.; Platt, U.; Borrell, P., ed. (2011). The Remote Sensing of Tropospheric Composition from Space. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. pp. 551. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-14791-3. ISBN 9783642147913. 
  10. Kokhanovsky, A.A.; de Leeuew, Gerrit, ed. (2009). Satellite Aerosol Remote Sensing over Land. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. pp. 388. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-69397-0. ISBN 9783540693970. 
  11. Rodgers, C.D. (2000). Inverse Methods for Atmospheric Sounding: Theory and Practice. World Scientific Publishing Co. pp. 256. ISBN 9789814498685. 
  12. Gunderson, L.H.; Holling, C.S., ed. (2002). Panarchy Synopsis: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. Island Press. pp. 64. ISBN 9781559633307. 
  13. Folke, C.; Hahn, T.; Olsson, P.; Norberg, J. (2005). "Adaptive governance of social-ecological systems". Annual Review of Environment and Resources 30: 441–473. doi:10.1146/ 


This presentation is faithful to the original, with only a few minor changes to presentation. In some cases important information was missing from the references, and that information was added. The original reference list was alphabetical order by last name; the references here appear in the order presented in the text. Keywords were added after the text rather than after the references.