Digital Twin Earth

Digital Twin Earth (DTE) is a high-precision digital model of the Earth that will integrate the Earth system model with modern Earth Observation (EO) data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), high performance computing and data infrastructure. DTE will allow carrying out simulations and predictions under different environmental and anthropogenic conditions, and thus acting as an advanced sophisticated tool to facilitate evidence-based decisions, assess their impacts and expand the capacity to understand and tackle environmental challenges.

EU Green Deal

The development of the Digital Twin Earth has begun during autumn 2020. It will be suited to serve the needs of the stakeholders engaged in addressing the major challenges and policy needs identified by the EU Green Deal.

The EU Green Deal sets the ambition for Europe to act as a global leader on climate and environmental measures and represents an opportunity to put Europe firmly on a new path of sustainable growth.

Precursor activities

Recently, European Space Agency (ESA) outlined a Vertical Pillar of Digital Twin Earth, i.e. use and science case dealing with user requirements and utilities of Digital Twin Earth. In order to study this more comprehensively, ESA launched a call for proposals to the scientific community to come up with ideas to prototype a potential example of Digital Twin Earth for a precise domain using existing capabilities, infrastructure and science.

This call resulted in several activities aiming to prototype an example of Digital Twin Earth for a certain domain. The activities form a portfolio of projects that is named as Digital Twin Earth Precursors (DTEP).

Main tasks of Precursors

All Precursor activities are 12-month projects and have three main tasks to complete:

  1. Analyze the existing capabilities in industry and science to implement Digital Twin Earth for a particular domain,
  2. Prototype an example of Digital Twin Earth,
  3. Prepare a roadmap for future that gives perspective of requirements in terms of infrastructure, science, data and connecting the present to what will be achieved in future.

Stream related to all Precursors

Precursors were introduced during Phi-Week 2020 in a virtual session. Stream of the virtual session was recorded. The introduction to Forest DTE Precursor can be wacthed here starting at 04:00 or by clicking the Phi-Week image.

Forest DTE Precursor introduced in the stream at approximately 04:00-14:00

Forest Digital Twin Earth Precursor


In the call, ESA divided the Earth system into themes. Forest DTEP falls into “Land Use for a Carbon Neutral Europe”, but contributes also to “Environmental disasters and risk management” and “Biodiversity and vulnerable ecosystem”.

Forest DTEP builds on strong background in forestry related research and development: Forest models developed at University of Helsinki, forest simulation software, Forest Thematic Exploitation Platform and extensive network of partners and end users (companies, governmental agencies, scientific and institutional users).

Themes set by ESA and how they are connected to Forest DTEP

A consortium of six partners from Finland, Germany, Poland and Romania will implement Forest Digital Twin Precursor. The consortium will work with Earth observation (EO) data to determine the structural and biological properties of forests. The consortium will use this information to initialize a set of forest ecosystem models that include processes above and below the ground. Further, the consortium will develop new interfaces and visualization tools, making the cloud platform easily accessible to end users.

Developed system

Goal of the system developed in the project is to bring together forest data and users interested in forests, i.e. Forest DTEP will bring user to the data and data to the user.

As a start, we have a large volume of open EO and forest data. In addition, we have precise measurements on the functioning of forests and climate system. Furthermore, we have the users for the data.

In the proposed system, a user selects an area of interest and data will be fetched for this area. The data are used to initialize a forest ecosystem model that quantifies the future of the forests in the selected area. The updated forests will be fed again to the ecosystem models that determine forest growth under specified climate scenarios. A cycle like this can be repeated, for instance, at yearly steps.

The carbon balance of the forest ecosystem will be computed as well as its albedo, and contribution of wood products to carbon sequestration. Finally, information derived from the data are presented to the user through a visualization system.

Proposed system for Forest DTEP