Darmstadt/Offenbach (dpa) – A storm disaster in April of this year claimed more than 400 lives in South Africa. Within 24 hours, with as much rain as usual all year round, the consequences are mudslides and floods.
In July 2021, torrential rains in Wadi Ahar led to flash floods of up to a meter in height, leaving a streak of devastation. More than 130 people were killed. In the context of global warming, the risk of such disasters is increasing.
In order to be able to better understand and locate the formation and risks of future storms, a new generation of weather satellites will be launched soon. “They have a much higher resolution,” says Alexander Schmid, director of the new Meteosat satellite program at the European Meteorological Satellite Agency (Eumetsat) in Darmstadt. The satellites, which are also used for climate monitoring, will be controlled from the Darmstadt control center in the future.
Supposed to go to space in November
Training for this purpose is scheduled to begin in June. In November, the first out of a total of three satellites will be launched into space. The other two will follow in 2024 and 2025. The satellites are expected to provide data for a total of 20 years.
“With higher resolution, you can achieve greater accuracy,” Schmid says. A highly improved warning time can be obtained with the satellite planned for 2024. “There are two known instruments on board the ship. One of them can provide the temperature and humidity characteristics of the Earth’s atmosphere.” The other two are satellite imaging. They monitor the weather in Europe and Africa and have lightning cameras on board, tools that were not yet available for monitoring the weather in Europe.
Richard Muller, a satellite data expert for the German Weather Service (DWD), is sure that “we can expect the quality of the weather forecast to improve significantly.” “All floods from thunderstorms can then be predicted earlier, better, and above all more accurately in terms of time and space.” One reason for this is the new lightning rods. In his opinion, it was not possible to accurately predict the sudden flood in the Ahr Valley, even with the new satellites.
A fixed vision for Africa and Europe
In the future, the three satellites will fly in a geostationary orbit at an altitude of 36,000 km and will always monitor Europe and Africa. They send out a scan from Africa every ten minutes and one from Europe every two and a half minutes. According to Eumetsat engineer Katja Hungershöfer, high-resolution cameras can also be used to observe carpets of algae and, much better, volcanic ash from space. “So far it has been difficult to distinguish between clouds and volcanic ash.” It’s like a sharper pair of glasses. Schmid compares progress with the leap from previous TV quality to Ultra HD.
“The importance of the satellite measurements is more important to them than to us,” Schmid says of Africa’s weather observations. There are measuring stations there, but they are outdated. Now the data will also benefit the African Union, to which all recognized African countries belong. Eumetsat and the Federation recently signed a cooperation agreement on climate monitoring, in which data from the new generation of satellites will also be used. According to Eumetsat, satellites can be used to detect, among other things, shifts in vegetation and the long-term spread of deserts.
Müller expects from DWD for Europe that the starting point for thunderstorms can be determined, which is important for weather models, and thus be warned in advance. “The engineers who worked on it do a very good job when everything works. It’s very demanding.”
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220531-99-490332 / 2