The Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) uses satellite imagery and other geospatial data to provide free of charge mapping service in cases of natural disasters, human-made emergency situations and humanitarian crises throughout the world. Since its inception in 2012 it has grown into one of the world’s key space-based support services for a variety of emergencies.
The year 2022 became another record-breaking year for the use of CEMS, with 86 activations of the rapid mapping service, a 41% increase in comparison to 2021.
Copernicus Emergency Management Services
CEMS offers two main services to users around the world: Firstly it offers a rapid mapping service, that provides geospatial information within hours or days of a service request in order to support emergency management activities in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.
Rapid Mapping provides geospatial information within hours or days from the activation in support of emergency management activities immediately following a disaster. Standardised mapping products are provided: e.g. to ascertain the situation before the event (reference product), to roughly identify and assess the most affected areas (first estimate product), assess the geographical extent of the event (delineation product) or to evaluate the severity of the damage resulting from the event (grading product).
You can find the list of all rapid mapping activations at the CEMS rapid mapping page here.
Risk and Recovery Mapping
Secondly CEMS offers risk and recovery mapping, which supplies geospatial information in support of Disaster Management activities including prevention, preparedness, risk reduction and recovery phases, usually in the evaluation phase after a disaster, or to assess disaster risks in the prevention phase.
Risk and Recovery Mapping provides on-demand geospatial information in support of Disaster Management activities not related to immediate response. This applies in particular to activities dealing with prevention, preparedness, disaster risk reduction and recovery phases. There are three broad product categories: Reference Maps, Pre-disaster Situation Maps and Post-disaster Situation Maps.
You can find a list of all CEMS risk and recovery mapping activations here.
The users of the service include entities and organisations at regional, national, European and international level active in the field of emergency management. The EMS can be triggered only by or through an Authorised User (AU). Authorised Users include National Focal Points (NFPs) in the EU Member States and countries participating in the Copernicus programme, as well as European Commission services and the European External Action Service (EEAS).
2022 record year for CEMS rapid mapping activations
In its 10th year of existence, the Copernicus CEMS services saw a record number of rapid mapping activations. With 86 activations in 2022, the service witnessed a 41% growth in comparison to 2021, when the service was activated 61 times. In the previous ‘record’ year 2019 the service was used 75 times.
From above numbers it is easy to see that flood and wildfire events make up the majority of activations, followed by storms, humanitarian disasters, and earthquakes. Volcanoes, landslides and algae blooms in the ocean make up the bottom end of the list of disasters in the last decade.
Geographical distribution of rapid mapping activations 2012-2022
Being a European service, it should be no surprise that Copernicus CEMS activations are most triggered by European users. Nevertheless this is a global service, that is open to be used by any authority around the world involved in disaster management.
It is also noteworthy that not in all regions in the world floods and wildfires are the key triggers for rapid mapping activations. Storms and volcanic activity activations are more prevalent outside Europe for example.
If we look deeper into the geographical distribution of rapid mapping activations, it shows that over the last 10 years, 66% of activations came from Europe, followed by 14% of activations in Asia. Other geographies represent less than 10% of activations. It is noteworthy that there are very few activations in North America, possibly due to the use of local satellite disaster management schemes that exist in that region.
If we then zoom in to record year 2022, we see that floods and wildfires represent 72 of the 86 activations. Where flood activations are triggered from all over the world, wildfire activations are 95% from European authorities, even though wildfires are prevalent all over the world. This may be an area for further awareness raising outside of Europe.
CEMS Risk and Recovery Management in 2022
The second main service of CEMS is the pre- or post-disaster analysis risk and recovery management service. Although 2022 was not a record year for this service, it is increasingly being used over the last years.
It is noteworthy that the most used disaster category for this service is humanitarian, which includes things like refugee movement analysis and human-caused disasters like industrial accidents. This is followed closely by wildfire and flood analyses.
The future of CEMS
At the recent Copernicus Emergency Management Service General Assembly in October 2022 the past 10 years and future of CEMS was discussed and new projects were introduced.
As Europe and the world must contend with an ever-growing number of damaging natural phenomena, many of them exacerbated by climate change, so grows the role of CEMS in helping to cope with these challenges. During the peak of the European wildfire season, between 5 June and 19 September, CEMS received 50 Rapid Mapping (RM) and 6 Risk and Recovery Mapping (RRM) activations to assess the damage wildfires caused in Europe. In the face of this growing demand, it is vital that CEMS continues to evolve as a Service, bringing on board the latest innovations. On this topic, the CEMS General Assembly hosted a session on Research Projects related to disaster and risk management.
Some of the most promising technological innovations discussed in the session stem from the EU’s Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe projects. Among these were:
- ECFAS: the H2020 European Coastal Flood Awareness System project
- DeepCube: Deep Learning for Fire Danger Forecasting;
- CLINT: the H2020 Climate Intelligence project;
- CENTAUR: the soon to be kicked off Horizon Europe project on Copernicus Security and Copernicus EMS service evolution
These cutting-edge projects have excellent potential future applications within the CEMS ecosystem. Two clear examples are the ECFAS and CENTAUR projects. The European Coastal Flood Awareness System, for example, aims to “capitalise on the existing framework of CEMS and EFAS to implement a coastal flood awareness system.” On the other hand, the CENTAUR project focuses on the flood-related threats to population, assets and infrastructures in urban areas.