The first images from Europe’s new weather satellite, Meteosat-12, have just been released.
The spacecraft, which sits 36,000km above the equator, was launched in December and is currently in a testing phase that will last most of this year.
When Meteosat-12’s data is finally released to meteorological agencies, it’s expected to bring about a step-change in forecasting skill.
Warnings of imminent, hazardous conditions should improve greatly.
This is something called “nowcasting” – the ability to say with greater confidence that violent winds, lightning, hail or heavy downpours are about to strike a particular area.
Part of this advance will come from the increased resolution of Meteosat-12. For previous generation satellites, a feature in a storm had to be at least 1km across to be detected. The new spacecraft will track features as small as 500m in diameter.