Météo-France: “new generation” satellites to bring forecasts to a “new era”.

(AFP) – Faster and more accurate images, new lightning or atmospheric sensors: with the third generation of Meteosat satellites, Météo-France is getting a new tool to improve its forecasts of extreme events, which will increase especially with climate change.

It hadn’t happened in 20 years. On December 13, a new geostationary satellite (MTG), the result of more than ten years of research and built by a European consortium led by Thales Alenia Space, will be launched by Ariane 5 from Kourou with the aim of “bringing weather forecast”. Susanne Dieterle from Eumetsat, which manages Europe’s weather satellites, said.

90% of the observational data used by Météo-France forecast models comes from meteorological satellites. The remaining 10% is provided by other sources, such as ground stations.

Stabilized on three axes and no longer rotating like its predecessor launched in 2002 (which caused times when the Earth was not visible), the MTG will report every 10 minutes with better resolution, versus the previous 15.

It will be accompanied in a few months by another new satellite with a sounder and a lightning sensor capable of re-recording the composition of the atmosphere (temperature, humidity, etc.). The goal? Analyze convective phenomena, these movements of the atmosphere at the beginning of storms and storms. Also, forest fires, smog or pollutant particles, air quality are currently only analyzed from ground-based instruments (balloons, probes…).

– Small revolution –

A twin satellite (MTG-I2) will follow in 2025, which will scan every two and a half minutes and focus on Europa. Three other similar satellites are under construction to replace them. This means six machines with a total cost of 4.3 billion euros.

In France, it will be the Météo France space weather center (CMS) at Lannion, established in 1963, which will receive raw data from these satellites in real time. With a mission to turn them into images and then into still or animated maps for forecasters.

Sylvain Le Moal, one of the managers of CMS, expects to experience a small revolution. “Today, we receive 330 gigabytes of raw data per day. With the new generation, this number will increase by 50,” he stressed.

“Observation is the first step in forecasting. The more data we have and the more millions of data we can access, the better the forecasts will be,” Mr. Le Moal emphasized after the first meteorological satellite in 1960. , “we gain an average of one day of reliable forecast every 10 years”.

– Time to win –

Kenneth Holmlund, one of the heads of the World Meteorological Organization, said the new instruments “will really change the game”.

Mr Le Moal notes that they will “allow a more accurate visualization of certain types of finer clouds, such as those that form behind airplanes, which can affect global warming and which we don’t know much about today”.

“We will also learn more about sea surface temperatures, which will allow us to better see phenomena such as the upwelling of cold water at the start of storms,” ​​he adds, adding that “probing the atmosphere will eventually be possible to better understand dangerous phenomena.”

What better way to guess them?

For Thales’ Bertrand Denis, there is no doubt: the warning period for this type of phenomenon will be “significantly reduced”.

For Mr Le Moal, this is certainly an “important step”, but the satellite “remains an observational tool like a thermometer” and is only one of the parameters for developing a forecast.

True, the lightning sensor, “with its images every millisecond, is of great interest in terms of instant prediction, because today we only have effects on the ground. So we will save time. But it is modest, we will stay together. prediction of the risks of occurrence. These events due to its extremely unstable and explosive nature, it is impossible to know exactly where and when it will fall.”

In particular, for a detailed analysis of precipitation, we will have to wait for the next generation … in 20 years.

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