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Forecasting weather

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ESA / Applications / Observing the Earth / Aeolus

It goes without saying that accurate weather forecasts are important for numerous commercial activities such as farming, fishing, transport, energy exploitation and, of course, for generally planning our daily affairs.

Our daily forecasts rely on numerical weather prediction, which is a process that generates mathematical models of the current weather to predict what the weather will be like in the future, usually over the next few days.

Although weather forecasts have advanced considerably in recent years, Aeolus is set to advance them even further.

Global wind profiles delivered in near-real time by Aeolus will help improve numerical weather prediction models, which in turn, will therefore help improve forecasts.

It is well known that interactions between wind, temperature and humidity play a key role in determining these atmospheric dynamics, but without the quantity of data that a satellite-based-observation system can provide, these interactions remain difficult to model. Data from Aeolus will improve our understanding of these interactions, which will not only lead to more accurate predictions, but also to better descriptions of precipitation, humidity, and Hadley circulation in the Tropics.

By defining the initial state of the weather with more accuracy, and improving the modelling of wind movements, Aeolus will help create more useful tropical forecasts. This should lead to, among other benefits, better estimates of the position and intensity of tropical cyclones.

In the southern hemisphere's extra-tropics, a dramatic improvement is expected in the short-range forecasting of synoptic events. In the northern hemisphere, there are still cases of forecast failures for events such as strong mid-latitude storms. The percentage of failures will be reduced with the introduction of Aeolus observations. Over the whole globe, small-scale details of intense wind events will improve for short-range forecasts because of the earlier detection of their development.

Medium-range forecasts will also improve thanks to Aeolus. By providing better definition of the planetary-scale waves and more uniform coverage of the Earth, the satellite will enable forecasters to make more accurate predictions for both hemispheres. The greatest improvement, however, is expected to occur in the extra-tropical regions of the southern hemisphere, where the lack of conventional data coverage currently makes predictions difficult.

Aeolus will also be used in air-quality models to improve forecasts of dust and other airborne particles that affect public health.

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