What is Copernicus?

21 April 2020

Copernicus is the European Union's Earth Observation Programme. Thanks to a variety of technologies, from satellites in space to measurement systems on the ground, in the sea and in the air, the programme delivers operational data and information services openly and freely in a wide range of application areas.

Copernicus Programme is coordinated and managed by the European Commission. It is implemented in partnership with the Member States, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), EU Agencies and Mercator Océan.

Copernicus services deliver near-real-time data on a global level which can also be used for local and regional needs, to help us better understand our planet and sustainably manage the environment we live in.

Copernicus is supported by a family of dedicated, EU-owned satellites – the Sentinels -, specifically designed to meet the needs of the Copernicus services and their users. Since 2014 (the launch of Sentinel-1) the European Union set in motion a process to place a constellation of almost 20 more satellites in orbit before 2030.

The programme also builds on existing space infrastructure: satellites operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the EU Member States and other third countries and commercial providers.

Copernicus also draws on a large number of in situ measurements systems, which deliver data from multitude of sensors on the ground, at sea or in the air.

The Copernicus services transform this base of satellite and in situ data into value-added information by processing and analysing the data and validating the results.

The monitoring of changes is possible thanks to comparable and searchable datasets stretching back for years and decades; patterns are examined and used to create better forecasts. Maps are created from imagery, features and anomalies are identified and statistical information is extracted.

These activities enables descript the current situation (analysis), the prediction of the  situation a few days  ahead  (forecast),  and the provision of consistent retrospective data  records  for  recent  years  (re-analysis).
It streamlined through six thematic streams of Copernicus services:


     Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service  (CAMS)
provides continuous data and information on atmospheric composition.
The service focuses on five main areas:

  • Air quality and atmospheric composition;
  • Ozone layer and ultra-violet radiation;
  • Emissions and surface fluxes;
  • Solar radiation;
  • Climate forcing.


     Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service  (CMEMS)
provides systematic information about the physical and biogeochemical state and dynamics of the ocean and marine ecosystems for the global ocean and the European regional seas. The CMEMS calculates  and  provides  products  describing  currents, temperature, wind, salinity, sea level, sea  ice  and  biogeochemistry.
These factors support applications in the fields of:

  • Marine safety;
  • Marine resources;
  • Coastal and marine environment;
  • Weather, seasonal forecasting and climate.


     Copernicus Land Monitoring Service  (CLMS)
provides geographical information on land cover and its changes, land use, vegetation state, water cycle and earth surface energy variables.
The service consist of five main components:

  • Systematic monitoring of biophysical parameters;
  • Land cover and land use mapping;
  • Thematic hot-spot mapping;
  • Imagery and reference data;
  • European Ground Motion activity.


     Copernicus Climate Change Service  (C3S)
supports adaptation and mitigation policies of the EU by providing consistent and authoritative information about climate change.C3S relies on climate research carried out within the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and responds to user requirements defined by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). C3S provides an important resource to the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS).

The mission complements the established range of meteorological and environmental services. It derives benefit from the existing infrastructure and knowledge by involving national climate service providers as well as relevant academic communities.


    Copernicus Emergency Management Service  (EMS)

delivers warnings and risk  assessments  of  floods  and  forest  fires  and provides geospatial information derived from satellite images on the impact of natural and  man-made  disasters  all  over  the  world  (before,  during  or  after  a  crisis). These data are completed by available in situ or open data sources.
EMS has two main components:

  • Early Warning Systems;
  • Mapping Service.


     Copernicus Security Service
providing information in response to the security challenges, by  improving  crisis prevention, preparedness and response capacities in the following key areas:

  • Border surveillance;
  • Maritime surveillance;
  • Support to EU External Action.


     Read more about Copernicus Programme    

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