Aeolus is a polar-orbiting satellite which sends laser light into the atmosphere and measures the backscatter to obtain information on winds in the direction perpendicular to the satellite’s path. (Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)
READING, England (ECMWF PR) — The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF ) started assimilating wind data from the European Space Agency’s ground-breaking Aeolus satellite operationally on 9 January 2020 after tests showed that they significantly improve weather forecasts.
Aeolus was launched in August 2018 to test the usefulness of direct wind profile observations from space for numerical weather prediction. It works by measuring the backscatter of laser light from air molecules (‘Rayleigh-clear’ data) and from clouds and aerosols (‘Mie-cloudy’ data).
The Aeolus satellite passed close to Hurricane Dorian as the storm stalled over the Bahamas, as shown in this image from NASA’s Aqua satellite taken at 1805 UTC on 1 September 2019. The red line has been superimposed to indicate Aeolus’s path. The Aeolus wind data for that path and beyond, from about 6°N to 42°N, are shown below. (Credit: NASA)
The Aeolus observations being assimilated come from a second laser switched on in June 2019 after the first laser had lost a fraction of ...