New European weather satellite reveals Earth's 'cloudy beauty', say researchers

The image shows the Earth's 'cloudy beauty,' said scientists. Credit: EUMETSAT/ESA

European scientists have released the first images captured by a new generation of weather satellites - which they say could usher in a 'new era' in forecasting.

The European Space Agency and meteorological satellite agency say the new satellite - Meteosat-12 - contains cameras able to capture the Earth in a much higher resolution than other spacecraft.

Those advanced cameras can provide information which scientists hope will help them better predict extreme weather scenarios.

Researchers say the cameras on Meteosat-12 allow them to capture the Earth better than previous models. Credit: EUMETSAT/ESA

The satellite will be distributed among meteorologists across Europe by the end of the year. It launched from a European Spaceport in French Guiana last October, before orbiting the Earth 36,000km above the equator.

Along with better cameras, the satellite contains a 'lightening imager', able to continuously monitor more than 80% of the Earth disc for lightning discharges.

Meteosat-12 prior to launch. Credit: European Space Agency.

The first image released by the project, which was taken in March, showed much of Northern and Western Europe and Scandinavia covered in cloud, with relatively clear skies over Italy and the Western Balkans.

Zooming into the image of Nordic countries, for example, researchers say they were able to see details of cloud structures which would help them predict weather events.

The level of detail in cloud structures is "extraordinarily important" to forecasters. Credit: EUMETSAT

“This remarkable image gives us great confidence in our expectation that the MTG system will herald a new era in the forecasting of severe weather events,” Director-General Phil Evans said.

“It might sound odd to be so excited about a cloudy day in most of Europe. But the level of detail seen for the clouds in this image is extraordinarily important to weather forecasters.

"That additional detail from the higher resolution imagery, coupled with the fact that images will be produced more frequently, means forecasters will be able to more accurately and rapidly detect and predict severe weather events.”

Other officials involved said the project was testament to inter-European cooperation, with Simonetta Cheli, a Director at the European Space Agency, saying that the "level of detail" in the satellites image "will give us a greater understanding of our planet and the weather systems that shape it."

How do meteorologists predict the weather?

They use satellites, atmospheric readings, and radar to detect and examine changes in weather patterns.

These then allow them to make weather models, from which they predict what the weather could be.

The satellite will be useful to better detect dust, haze, smoke, cloud properties and wildfires. Credit: EUMETSAT/ESA

This new satellite, with its high definition photos, belongs to a new method of meteorology known as 'nowcasting'. The quality of the images allows forecasters to make far more accurate, quicker predictions

Meteosat-12 will be able to take images of the earth every ten minutes when fully operational.

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