Today is World Meteorology Day, which highlights the essential contribution of national meteorological and hydrological services to the safety and well-being of society and is celebrated with activities around the world. The themes chosen for World Meteorology Day reflect current weather, climate or water-related issues, so let’s take a look at some of the work Thales Alenia Space is doing to monitor our oceans, climate and weather. Oceans are one of the main drivers of our weather and play a significant role in mitigating climate change.
Monitoring impacts on Earth and climate change from space
Global satellite coverage offers a unique perspective of our planet. Information from space can help improve agricultural yields, protect against habitat loss and halt deforestation. Satellites have also discovered the ozone hole and their data are now very important elements in the fight against climate change.
Cyclone Idai, west of Madagascar – Sentinel-3 © contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019) processed by ESA
To predict the consequences of global warming and protect our planet, we need accurate information about how the natural environment is changing. Some earth observation satellites can provide reliable and highly accurate information about the earth over long periods of time and on a global scale.
While meteorology was the first scientific discipline to use space capabilities in the 1960s, today satellites can help us monitor how healthy – or not – the planet we call home is based on a wide range of data, including weather analysis, color and temperature or measures of gravity.
Some of the Earth-orbiting observation satellites are specifically designed for environmental monitoring. Satellites allow scientists and decision makers to better monitor the effects of climate change, and they may also be the only solution to monitor parts of the world where ground systems cannot be deployed.
Every day, their eyes stay on our planet, capturing images that provide invaluable data to help us respond when nature goes wild, as well as understand climate change, make better use of natural resources, and protect vulnerable populations.
Provide assistance to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
Province of Pavia, Italy – Image taken by a COSMO SkyMed satellite © ASI, distributed and processed by e-Geos
Using satellite imagery, farmers can decide when to add water or fertilizer and when to harvest. Plant vigor and productivity can be measured with special tools. Farmland makes up 37% of the Earth’s surface, and satellites can collect this data over a vast area.
At Thales Alenia Space we are fully aware of the impact of global warming. Thales Alenia Space employees have used their expertise to provide the world’s scientists and decision makers with the tools they need to collect vital data for environmental monitoring, oceanography and meteorology.
Thales Alenia Space is at the forefront of European geostationary meteorology as prime contractor for three generations of Meteosat weather satellites on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) and EUMETSAT, the European operational satellite agency for weather, climate and environment monitoring. Meteorologists have relied on the wealth of data from Meteosat satellites to create weather forecasts for over 45 years. Thales Alenia Space has built all of Europe’s geostationary meteorological satellites as prime contractor.
Environmental monitoring satellites to protect our planet
The company works hand-in-hand with the European Space Agency on the European Commission’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme, which comprises 12 Sentinel families of satellites developed by the European space industry for ESA.
Copernicus © Thales Alenia Space
Sentinel-1 monitors land and sea in all weather conditions, day and night, with its radar capabilities; Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 capture high-resolution optical imagery over land and coastal waters; Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 are dedicated to meteorological and climatological missions; and Sentinel-6 monitors the planet’s oceans. Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor for Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-3, responsible for the image ground segment of Sentinel-2 and contributing to the imager spectrometer on Sentinel-5P and the Poseidon-4 radar altimeter for Sentinel-6.
In 2020 we have also been selected for five of the six new Copernicus extension missions, three of them as prime contractors – CIMR, ROSE-L and CHIME – and will provide payloads for two more missions – CO2M and CRISTAL. These new satellites will measure man-made carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, measure ice-field and snow-pack thickness, support advanced new services for sustainable agriculture and biodiversity management, monitor sea-surface temperature and ice-field salinity and density, and strengthen land surveillance and emergency management services.
NERD © Thales Alenia Space/Image[IN]
As a world leader in altimetry and a key partner on board the most famous international oceanography missions, Thales Alenia Space is also collaborating on the Franco-American oceanography satellite SWOT (Surface Water Ocean Topography), which will revolutionize modern oceanography through the detection of marine features 10x better resolution than current technologies. The company is also the prime contractor for Italy’s COSMO SkyMed Earth observation radar system, now in its second generation, and launched the second satellite on February 1.
Revolutionize meteorology with MTG
Meteosat third generation © Thales Alenia Space
Over the decades, European meteorology has become increasingly accurate. With the first generation of Meteosat, the images were updated every 30 minutes, a rate that dropped to 15 minutes with the second generation. With MTG (Meteosat Third Generation), the images are now updated every ten minutes, making weather forecasts increasingly reliable. Third generation Meteosat data promises to revolutionize weather forecasting and enable closer monitoring of our changing atmosphere, land surfaces and oceans. Severe storms pose significant and increasing dangers to society. The aim of the MTG mission is to improve weather and storm forecasts in particular. Beyond the accuracy of weather forecasts, the immense amount of data generated by this unique fleet of satellites and their remote sensors will also support future efforts to model the Earth system, better understand current climate changes, and ultimately adapt more efficiently. MTG includes 6 satellites: 4 imaging satellites and 2 sounding ones. The two atmospheric sounding satellites will make a real technological leap to deliver 3D maps of the atmosphere – a world first. The echo sounders enable the detection of severe weather events half a day in advance. By combining all of these features, forecasters can do their jobs better and create forecasts up to eight days ahead. This will be a big step forward in giving the population early warning of severe weather events. MTG will truly help save lives while paving the way for new types of services for Europe and Africa. Once the entire MTG fleet is in orbit, Eumetsat will have the best weather services in the world.
Creating a “digital twin” of the earth
The recent global pandemic has helped people understand how space-based systems can quickly provide reliable geospatial information both globally and locally to respond to rapidly changing conditions. This data plays a crucial role in defining the context of the crisis, monitoring changes and supporting effective measures to mitigate its impact. The European Space Agency, the European Commission and other national and international institutions have supported the development of new space applications to help us better manage the Covid-19 pandemic. Space-based systems have repeatedly demonstrated their fundamental importance in providing information to deal with a variety of natural and man-made disasters by enabling risk management and emergency response. These systems now play a fundamental role in monitoring our environment, tracking climate change and other indicators and supporting the decision-making process and implementation of mitigation measures.
One of the most important initiatives in the coming years is the joint program of the European Commission and ESA to develop a model of the “digital twin of the earth” based on the massive data streams from various space missions.
“This digital twin will help us to develop analytical and predictive models, understand change and meet the challenge of sustainability. In other words, space is an essential sector at this particularly critical moment. For us in the industry, this is also an excellent opportunity to take a closer look at our strategic priorities and the public actions needed to ensure we are an integral part of the post-Covid world,” said Massimo Comparini, Senior Executive Vice President, Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space: “Digitalization, cyberspace, artificial intelligence, robotics and other key technologies will help us meet the challenge of the Green New Deal.” projects that provide a pragmatic response and arrive at short-term goals while underpinning a longer-term vision for a sustainable economy”.
Video Copernicus © Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programs