Satellites have been the primary means of obtaining weather data for the past 40 years. Britain’s leadership in satellite instrumentation and weather product processing systems is key to the accurate weather forecasts for billions of people worldwide.
The range of applications of weather data from metrological satellites such as Europe’s METEOSAT series of satellites continues to grow. In addition to everyday satellite imagery that we see on TV weather bulletins, thermal or infra-red images recorded by sensors such as scanning radiometers enable the determination of cloud heights and types, to calculate land and surface water temperatures, and to locate ocean surface features. These infra-red images can identify ocean eddies or vortices, and map currents such as the Gulf Stream which are valuable to the shipping industry. Fishermen and farmers are always interested in having accurate information about land and water temperatures, in order to protect their crops against frost or increase their catch from the sea.
Recently, as dangerous climate change has taken hold, and more extreme weather events have occurred, weather satellites have provided critical and life-saving early warnings to millions of affected people. Hurricane or typhoon-prone areas of the world are totally dependent on weather satellite data for this information.