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The Mongolian Data Cube installed at NAMEM will support better decision making using satellite Earth observation

eOsphere are very pleased that the Mongolian Data Cube has just been installed at the National Agency of Meteorology and the Environmental Monitoring (NAMEM) in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia as a part of the SIBELIUs IPP project, which eOsphere have been leading since 2018.

The Mongolian Data Cube and its associated software makes it possible to quantify and visualize satellite data and derived environmental products, covering the whole of Mongolia at up to 10 metre resolution. This innovative technology makes it possible to access the most up-to-date satellite imagery showing the current pasture conditions, levels of snow, temperatures and drought, and compare these with long term average conditions. Agencies will be able to access information to analyse the situation throughout the country without having to do a time- and resource-consuming in-person assessment.

This is especially relevant in Mongolia where nearly a third of the population make their livelihood from traditional forms of livestock herding, but who can be exposed to extreme environmental events known as ‘dzuds’, which are characterised by dry, arid summers, adversely affecting pasture growth, followed by extreme cold and snow in winter leading to a subsequent loss of livestock. Dzuds are becoming more frequent because of climate change and can devastate animal numbers and livelihoods, with resulting social and economic damage.

Importantly the Mongolian Data Cube provides a flow of satellite derived information to the PRISM emergency response system that was set up at Mongolia’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as a part of an initiative supported by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The PRISM system allows the emergency response teams to make more informed decisions when preparing for difficult winter conditions, with the ultimate goal of mitigating the risk of dzud and enhancing herders’ resilience capacity.

eOsphere have been working in Mongolia since 2007, when they installed a satellite ground receiving station at NAMEM, so during this period they have built a very productive working relationship with Mongolian institutions. However, the SIBELIUs project, which started in 2018 with the support of the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme, has made it possible to develop new techniques for extracting the most relevant environmental information from satellite data and distributing it as widely as possible to decision makers, including meteorologists with agricultural skills based in NAMEM centres all around the country.

The Mongolian Data Cube and associated equipment arriving at NAMEM in Mongolia.

An important feature of the Mongolian Data Cube is its Visualisation Website, which allows anyone to access the satellite derived information, regardless of whether they know anything about satellites.

The pasture problems observed in June & July using the pasture anomaly product in the Mongolian Data Cube, resulted in problems requiring action being taken in December. The pasture anomaly product shows how the current pasture conditions compare to the long-term average for the same time of year. So, essentially, it shows you how well the pasture is growing in comparison to how fast the livestock are eating it.

SIBELIUs is supported by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP), which is funded from the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The project’s other partners include the University of Leicester, the Centre for Nomadic Pastoralism Studies and Deimos Space.