• Technology

Europe unveils hi-tech satellite to speed up weather warnings

CANNES, France (Reuters) — Europe unveiled the first of a €4 billion ($4 billion) family of satellites designed to give earlier warning of extreme weather that has been causing havoc across the globe this year.

The result of 12 years of development for the European Space Agency and 30-nation EUMETSAT, the MTG-I satellite will be launched by the end of this year on an Ariane 5 rocket and put sharper eyes in space over Europe and Africa.

The 3.8-ton spacecraft will beam back images from next year and will be joined in geostationary orbit by three more MTG-I imaging satellites and two MTG-S “sounding” satellites capable of slicing the atmosphere, much like a medical scanner, by 2030.

The hope is that forecasters will gain precious hours in predicting near-term storms and floods that can cost lives.

And scanning the atmosphere will provide a better picture of current conditions to feed into their computerized models.

“There is a real challenge today … to be able to compute the initial [weather] state,” said Herve Roquet, deputy director of research at Meteo France.

The initiative highlights a race to grapple with weather disruption exacerbated by global warming and that is estimated to have cost $100 billion worldwide in 2021 alone.

While the MTG-I imaging satellites will bring Europe roughly in line with GOES-R operated by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, albeit with a newer lightning mapper, MTG-S will deploy sounders in space for the first time.

European officials said China has experimented with the technology with lower accuracy but is yet to deploy it, while acknowledging Beijing’s space program is developing fast.

Engineers said the sounding or scanning technique will capture storms before they become visible on traditional radar.