The European Alps are providing important ecosystem resources such as water, food, timber and recreation for the population who lives in the mountains and in its downstream regions. On the one hand, most of the key economic activities in the Alps like tourism, agriculture, forestry and hydropower production depend on the rich natural resources of mountains. On the other hands, the Alps and its sensitive ecosystem are vulnerable to the impact of environmental changes that may produce events such as natural hazards, water scarcity, or forest damage. Therefore, a reliable and timely up-to-date information on the state of these resources and related risks is of great importance for a proactive management of the resources present in the Alps. However, a consistent trans-regional environmental monitoring system is currently missing for the Alps.
The Sentinel Alpine Observatory (SAO) is an Earth Observation project that gathers the expertise developed by Eurac researchers in more than 10 years of environmental monitoring using remote sensing in the alpine region of South Tyrol, Italy. Within SAO, this expertise is used to develop innovative methodologies for the exploitation of the new sensor technology on board the Copernicus Sentinel satellites with the aim of creating multi-temporal datasets of biophysical and descriptive variables that cover the entire alpine range. The SAO is built on a powerful distributed computer processing and storage cluster. Moreover, in order to guarantee quick access and processing of the big amount of Sentinel data acquired over the Alps, the SAO computational infrastructure is federated with the Earth Observation Data Centre for Water Resources Monitoring (EODC Water) infrastructure.
SAO aims at becoming a networking platform for users of Earth Observation data in the alpine region. For this purpose, products related to key environmental parameters extracted from Sentinel data and a range of services are provided in SAO. The products comprise level 2 data, snow, glacier, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, leaf area index, NDVI, landslides, and forest change maps. These products are made available to the users through a web GIS platform, which simplifies the visualization of the data. Moreover, a catalog service, and a dedicated web platform allows users to access and perform customized analysis on the data using cloud-computing services.