The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched a satellite that will measure winds around the globe and help improve weather forecasting.
The Earth Explorer Aeolus satellite was launched into polar orbit on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 21:20 GMT on August 22 (2:50 a.m. Indian Standard Time on August 23).
Aeolus is the first satellite mission to acquire profiles of Earth’s wind on a global scale. These near-realtime observations will improve the accuracy of numerical weather and climate prediction and advance our understanding of tropical dynamics and processes relevant to climate variability.
Aeolus is the fifth in the family of ESA’s Earth Explorer missions, which address key scientific challenges identified by the science community and demonstrate the breakthrough technology in observing techniques.
Named after Aeolus, who in Greek mythology was appointed ‘keeper of the winds’ by the Gods, this novel mission will not only provide much-needed data to improve the quality of weather forecasts but also contribute to long-term climate research.
The Aeolus satellite carries just one large instrument – a Doppler wind lidar called Aladin that will probe the lowermost 30 km of the atmosphere to measure the winds sweeping around our planet.
Many aspects of our lives are influenced by the weather. It goes without saying that accurate forecasts are important for commercial undertakings such as farming, fishing, construction and transport – and in general make it easier to plan the days ahead.
In extreme circumstances, knowing what the weather will bring can also help save lives and protect property. Although weather forecasts have advanced considerably in recent years, meteorologists urgently need reliable wind-profile data to improve accuracy further.
Aeolus wind mission will demonstrate that measuring global wind-profiles from space, using laser technology, can meet this requirement.