H. Kutterer | 2022-02-19

Mission Earth - Geodynamics and Climate Change Observed Through Satellite Geodesy

How does your cell phone know where you are right now? How is our planet changing due to geodynamic processes and ongoing climate change? How can these changes be precisely measured from space?

Book Review

Mission Earth

Geodynamics and Climate Change Observed Through Satellite Geodesy

Detlef Angermann, Roland Pail, Florian Seitz and Urs Hugentobler
With interview contributions by Günter Hein, Harald Lesch and Stefan Rahmstorf
Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2022
ISBN 978-3-662-64105-7
ISBN 978-3-662-64106-4 (eBook)
Mission Earth

 Such questions are highly relevant for our society - and are answered by geodesy. The central mission of the author’s team led by Dr. Detlef Angermann at the Technical University of Munich is to illustrate and explain precisely this. Thus, proven experts of global geodesy have come together to present their profound knowledge accurately, factually correct and, above all, easily accessible.

To understand the explanations, one does not need a degree in geodesy and certainly not a corresponding specialization. The book is explicitly written "for the curious". Formulas and derivations - unfortunately very often an argument against an in-depth study of the subject - are not found. Rather, our planet Earth with its complex dynamics is the focus of interest - and with it the current achievements and future possibilities of geodesy to contribute to a better understanding.

The book is divided into a total of five chapters. In a short introduction, the Earth is presented according to the modern view of systems theory as a dynamic planet, which consists of complex, interacting subsystems such as solid Earth, atmosphere, oceans or ice and which is subject to manifold changes. Climate change is already emphasized in the introduction as an example that is particularly visible to society. The chapter closes with the global view of geodesy on the Earth - illustrated by the three "basic pillars": geometry and kinematics, orientation and rotation, gravitational field. This clarifies the focus of the book and distinguishes it from an overall view of the geodetic portfolio.

Chapter 2 deals with the historical development of geodesy with regard to questions, tasks and methods from the first surveys in antiquity to the age of satellites. This storyline continues in Chapter 3 to describe and explain the approaches, tools, and contributions of global geodesy in the 21st century comprehensively, but - following the objective and the page size - not exhaustively. In Chapter 4, the focus of the considerations is put on the Earth system with the phenomena of global change. This emphasizes that the self-understanding of geodesy is not limited to a rather technological level. Dynamic processes of the solid Earth body, sea level changes or mass displacements in connection with the global water balance due to, e.g., ice melting in the polar region, are treated in detail. Essential statements about these changes, which affect us to a large extent in our everyday lives, are based on the fundamental findings of geodesy.

Already the preceding chapters are excellently written and extremely exciting to read. Finally, this is further enhanced in Chapter 5 by three interviews with renowned experts who are also known to the broader public. The content of this chapter is based on the societal relevance of the highly precise measuring of our planet from space. Prof. G. Hein, who played a key role in shaping the European satellite navigation system Galileo, looks at the importance of navigation systems in modern society. Prof. H. Lesch, known to a wider German audience through his science broadcasts, takes a holistic look at the Earth system. Prof. S. Rahmstorf, one of the lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report and an advisor to the German government, focuses on climate change and the threats it poses. The book concludes with a summarizing epilogue and a series of recommended readings to deepen and expand the presentations.  

With this book, the authors have succeeded in an impressive way in presenting modern geodesy - using the example of global geodesy - in a lively and descriptive manner with regard to its possibilities and achievements and in placing it in the scientific and societal context. They have more than fulfilled their self-formulated claim, especially in times of "fake news", to "write down what we know for sure because we have measured it directly". Congratulations!

It is very worthwhile to read the book. Therefore, this book should be widely distributed in our professional community and its neighboring fields, in order to make the relevance and multitude of the geodetic contributions known far beyond science in the narrower sense - and thus to contribute significantly to the awareness and the positive image of geodesy, also supporting the recruitment of young people for our inspiring profession.

Hansjörg Kutterer, Karlsruhe

This book review is an authorized translation of the original German “Buchbesprechung” by Hansjörg Kutterer, published in zfv – Zeitschrift für Geodäsie, Geoinformation und Landmanagement, Heft 2/2021, 146. Jahrgang, Herausgeber: DVW e.V. – Gesellschaft für Geodäsie, Geoinformation und Landmanagement, ISSN 1618-8950. The translation was done with the help of artificial intelligence (machine translation by the service DeepL.com). 

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