World's First Wind-mapping Satellite Delivers Its First Data

Posted: Sep 15 2018, 5:11pm CDT | by , Updated: Sep 16 2018, 5:12am CDT, in Latest Science News


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First Satellite to Measure Global Winds Delivers its First Data
Credit: ESA/AOES Medialab

ESA's Aeolus satellite promises to improve worldwide weather forecasting.

Just days after its successful launch into the orbit, European Space Agency’s Aeolus satellite has sent its first data on wind back to Earth. The extraordinary data will allow researchers to improve worldwide weather forecasts.

“The satellite hasn't even been in orbit a month yet, but the results so far look extremely promising, far better than anyone expected at this early stage,” said Florence Rabier, Director General of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). “Aeolus looks set to provide some of the most substantial improvements to our weather forecasts that we've seen over the past decade.”

Named after the keeper of the winds in Greek mythology, Aeolus is the first satellite to directly measure global wind speeds and directions from space. The satellite was blasted off on August 22 and carries an advanced laser instrument. The instrument, nicknamed Aladin, fires powerful pulses of ultraviolet light into the atmosphere and analyzes the backscattered signals from air molecules, dust particles and moisture. It is a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space. The combination of powerful laser, a large telescope and ultra-sensitive receiver makes Aladin one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit.

Aeolus' powerful instrument can obtain data from anywhere on the Earth and will improve our understanding of how the atmosphere works. It can also help predict extreme events like hurricanes and El Niño more accurately.

“Aeolus carries revolutionary laser technology to address one of the major deficits in the Global Observing System: the lack of direct global wind measurements.” ESA's Earth Explorer Programme manager Danilo Muzi said in a statement. Aeolus is the fifth in the series of ESA's planned Earth Explorer missions.

The satellite turned on its instrument earlier this month and beamed back its first data to a ground station on Norway's Arctic island of Svalbard.

“These first wind data shown in the plot made by ECMWF are from one orbit. In the profile we can see large-scale easterly and westerly winds between Earth's surface and the lower stratosphere, including jet streams,” explained Anne Grete Straume, ESA's Aeolus mission scientist. “In particular, you can see strong winds, called the Stratospheric Polar Vortex, around the South Pole. These winds play an important role in the depletion of the ozone layer over the South Pole at this time of the year.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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