After some initial testing scientists will start processing the satellite’s wind data and include it in weather models for weather forecast. Its maps are expected to bring significant improvements in the accuracy of medium-range forecasts – those that look a few days ahead.
“It’s a euphoric feeling and a proud moment to reach this milestone after overcoming the first technical challenge to build, launch and operate this complex wind lidar,” said Dr Mark Drinkwater, who heads ESA’s Earth and Mission Science Division.
Most of the Wind data comes from multiple patchy sources like weather balloons. Aeolus will be the first system to gather wind information all across the globe, from the ground up to 30 km in altitude. It will provide latest weather update 24*7 now on.
Aeolus gather weather reports by beaming a powerful ultraviolet laser down into the atmosphere. With the aid of a telescope and a sensitive detector, it will then look for the way the pulsed beam’s light is scattered back off air molecules, water droplets and dust particles. This should reveal basic details about air movement and numerical weather models will be adjusted to take account of it.
Aeolus lunch in 2007 was cancelled because engineers struggled to get the ultraviolet laser to work in the conditions it would experience in orbit, and there were many who thought the satellite would never fly. But now with new designs and new technologies scientist make Aeolus happen – which explains why the laser’s first operation in orbit has been greeted with such joy.
Now all that is left to do is to integrate all wind and weather data coming from Aeolus to weather models and get the most accurate weather forecast for today.