Satellites Study Earth's Weather Patterns

by Jeanette Cain

More articles in Satellites

Watching weather systems develop around the Earth is carried out by meteorology satellites. In 1959, the United States launched a satellite that made the first weather experiment in space. In 1960, the United States launched TIROS, the first weather satellite, that collected 23,000 cloud and moving cloud images at a distance of 750 kilometers.

In 1966, the Soviet Union launched it first weather satellite named Cosmos 122. Nimbus 4 was launched by NASA in 1970 and carried the first temperature measuring equipment for the different atmospheric altitudes. In 1974, the first geostationary weather satellite was launched by the United States. In 1977, Europe followed with the launch of the first Meteosat satellite being placed in geostationary orbit. With the help of the Japanese and United States counterparts, Meteosat gave the first global view of Earth's weather in a geostationary orbit.

The images of satellite weather are a given for us today, but past generations did not have the means and equipment to forecast the weather. Your weatherman broadcasts these images twenty-four hours a day. Meteorology satellites are also equipped with equipment for converting temperatures, reading pressures, and humidities. With the aid of weather buoys, ships, and balloons, this information is brought together to make, theoretically, accurate forecast predictions.

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These satellites have improved the ability of forecasters to predict hurricanes and warn citizens of danger. Once upon a time the hurricanes developed over an ocean unseen by earthbound eyes. In 1906, 6,000 people were killed when a hurricane hit Texas, but today's weather satellites are constantly monitoring any and all tropical storms.

Hurricane Hunters, or the Weather Squadron of the United States Air Force, fly into tropical storms to measure potential danger before combining data with coastal satellites and radar reports. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami will have a 24-hour watch on satellite data during the tropical storm season, which runs from May to November. The center issues hurricane warnings for the coastal United States, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean areas. The Geostationary satellites will scan every 30 minutes below them until a tropical storm develops. The satellites then switch to scanning a region in detail every 15 minutes. Hurricane forecast accuracy has allowed predictions to be within an area of less than 160 kilometers.

Scientists rely on computers for taking satellite information and turning it into pressures, temperatures, wind speeds, and humidities, which are needed for weather reporting. The computers take data from buoys, ships, radar, planes, and satellites to make accurate forecasts. All weather satellites stay in geostationary and polar orbits, but GEOS stay above the equator in the same place to continuously monitor and change recordings. Each satellite is only capable of seeing one-third of the Earth, and have difficulty viewing the northern regions. This is accomplished by NOAA 10 and other polar orbit satellites. They lack a continuous view of the same region, but they watch the poles in detail.


Sources:

1. Couper, Heather and Nigel Henbest. Space Encyclopedia DK Publishing, Inc.: NY 1999


2. Editors. Secrets of the Universe. International Master Publishing: US. 1999