Remote Sensing

Satellite image of water structures in the North Sea.-image: HZG-

Research Focus & Projects

Research Focus

Remote Sensing Methods

The Envisat satellite in Earth orbit. -image: ESA-

The composition and concentration of constituent materials in water influence its colour. This ocean colour can be determined using measurement instruments on board satellites.

The Department of Remote Sensing utilises procedures developed in house for this bio-optical remote sensing. What are known as neural networks are available for analysing the satellite data.

The methods for recording and analysis are constantly verified and developed further. New and improved information on the optical properties of water can therefore considered.

The Department of Remote Sensing also analyses data records over several years (“long-term time series”). Developments are therefore identified, and more precise forecasts of future developments are possible.

The data obtained provides, for example, information on the occurrence of algal blooms. Important environmental information on the coastal regions is gained in this manner.

Determining the Optical Properties of Coastal Waters
Developing Optical Measurement Procedures



Enmap Logo Final 120

The German Earth observation satellite EnMAP (Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program) is expected to launch into Earth orbit in 2018.
It will observe the Earth's surface in the visible and infrared ranges. Environmental changes will be detected by analysing the collected data.

Scientific preparation is currently under way for the EnMAP mission. As part of this groundwork, scientists at HZG develop their own methods for analysing the data. This detailed preparation will enable rapid data analysis for a broad spectrum of scientific questions at the onset of the EnMAP mission.

The Department of Remote Sensing is responsible for the preparation and development of measurement, recording and analysis methods for coastal and inland waters.

Further information can be found on the EnMAP website.

MyOcean II

Logo Myocean2

“MyOcean II” was a project supported by the European Union that ran until September 2014. The main objective was the operation of an observational and forecasting system for maritime waters. The users of MyOcean II data stem from various sectors: shipping safety, ocean resources, marine and coastal protection as well as from climate and weather forecasting.

Data for the project was recorded using two optical measurement instruments (MODIS and VIIRS) on board a satellite. The Remote Sensing Department is responsible for developing a mathematical method regionally adapted for the Baltic Sea for analysing this recorded satellite data.

Further information can be found on the Copernicus website.



The Earth observation satellite ENVISAT obtained extensive data on the coastal zones. MERIS was one of the measurement instruments used during the mission. ENVISAT was abandoned in 2012 by the European Space Agency (ESA) after the satellite failed to respond to commands.

The ESA started the project “coastcolour” to further analyse and evaluate the collected data. It aims at exploiting the data’s potential to the fullest extent. All MERIS data is to be made available online at the coastcolour website.
The project also develops, examines and compares different globally applicable mathematical analysis methods for coastal water data.

The Department of Remote Sensing is leading the scientific development and regional adaptation of these analysis methods.

Further information can be found on the
coastcolour website.

Ocean Colour_CCI

Esa Cci Oceancolour Icon

The European Space Administration (ESA) initiated the “Climate Change Initiative” (CCI) in 2009, and the project will run until 2016.
It serves to process and analyse all recorded long-term satellite data for studying Earth's global warming.

“OC_CCI” is a project within the framework of the Climate Change Initiative. OC_CCI analyses the ocean colour from data collected over a period of nearly twenty years and compares this data. This method can highlight the temporal development of, for example, water constituents such as chlorophyll. The project therefore provides direct measurement of a substantial global biological variable.

The Department of Remote Sensing is responsible for developing and optimizing a method for correcting the atmosphere’s influence on the measured ocean colour. The department also oversee the study of long-term developments.

Further information can be found on the OC_CCI website.


Various impacts can be observed due to global climate change: rise in temperatures, alteration in marine fauna, harmful plankton blooms, a decrease in fish populations or changes in coastal properties of the North Sea. The increase in shipping traffic and offshore industry have also considerably impacted the ecosystem.

In order to shape utilisation of the German Bight sustainably, the WIMO (Scientific Monitoring Concepts for the German Bight) project alliance has been formed. The objective is to appraise the current condition of the German Bight.
WIMO initially identifies the relevant variables as well as their interactions in order to facilitate the actual description of the environmental condition. The next step is the regular and precise observation of conditions in the German Bight.
Information will be disseminated about this condition and quality developments in German marine regions. Furthermore, decision makers will obtain scientifically-based advice.
Information concepts for the public are developed and are presented in easily comprehensible formats.

Several departments at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht are involved in WIMO.
The Department of Remote Sensing is developing what is known as a WebGIS for the project. This enables data from various measurement instruments in different data formats, which are currently distributed across different Internet servers, to be compiled and linked into one computer program.

Further information can be found on the WIMO website.


COSYNA (Coastal Observing system for Northern and Arctic Seas) is overseen by the New Technologies Department of the Institute of Coastal Research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht.

The Department of Remote Sensing integrates data from satellite measurements into COSYNA. Analysis and visualization methods for this data must be adapted for COSYNA requirements. In addition, results obtained from satellites are examined by comparing them to in situ measurements.

Further information can be found on the COSYNA website.



MaNIDA (Marine Network for Integrated Data Access) is a Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht initiative for developing and establishing a collective data portal for German marine research as a whole.

Several Helmholtz centres, universities and other institutes contribute to the initiative. The project at the HZG is overseen by the New Technologies Department.

Further information can be found on the MaNIDA website.