We all appreciate an accurate weather forecast. That’s why 300 kilometres inside the article circle a team of scientists are working away on data received from a new satellite designed to measure winds on earth.
Aeolus satellite only went into orbit in August – and right now teams at the Andøya space centre in northern Norway have the task of calibrating and validating data to measure winds.
It is the first global system of measuring winds around our planet and scientists are working away to make sure the instrument is accurate enough to take readings.
Anne Grete Straume, one of the scientists working on the Andøya mission explained “The satellite is rotating around the Earth from the north pole to the south pole and back. And the further north you go, it’s like with the lines on the map, the lines come closer so you have the satellite tracks coming closer geographically”
From its vantage point in space, Aeolus takes readings of the wind from 30km in altitude right down to the Earth’s surface and for the next few months, the scientists will be using every tool at their disposal on the ground to gather wind readings to compare with the satellite data.
To make their comparisons they’re even using the faithful old weather balloon, two of which are launched from Andøya every day. Staff engineer Ingrid Hanssen explained how the two work in tandem. “We use slightly different techniques with the different instruments. We can compare the measurements, and we can cover a bigger height range. So with the lasers, we can cover up to 100 kilometres, the balloon will burst at 30km, and we also have radars covering also up to approximately 100km.
Aeolus is what ESA calls an ‘Explorer Mission’, meaning it’s cutting edge technology. If it works, and the weather forecasts are measurably improved, then several similar satellites could be launched. The team are already optimistic about the data – “so far everything is working really to schedule and even the performance of the instrument is exceeding our expectations” says Anne Grete Straume.
With the Aeolus satellite providing a great new source of information. It could provide meteorologists around the world with a great new wealth of information to predict what’s going to happen in the next few days – everywhere from the Arctic Circle, all the way down to the equator. Will it work? Well, we won’t know until all the data has been verified but maybe one day you’ll hear from Aeolus when you tune in to your latest weather forecast.