Aeolus: of weather and winds

Thanks to the wind, heat is distributed around the planet. Equatorial regions receive more heat from the Sun than other parts of the world. This leads to differences in air temperature, density and pressure, which in turn, cause the air to move – creating wind. This movement of air constitutes the general circulation of the atmosphere, transporting heat away from equatorial regions towards the poles, and returning cooler air to the tropics. The wind clearly plays an important role in weather forecasts, which in turn are not only important for planning our daily affairs, but vital for numerous commercial activities such as farming, fishing, transport, and for taking appropriate measures when extreme weather is on the horizon. Although weather forecasts have advanced considerably in recent years, there is a need for global wind measurements to improve them even further. ESA’s Aeolus mission will fill this gap by providing global wind-profiles in near-real time. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts will process these data and the data in their numerical weather prediction models, which will lead to better forecasting.

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Aeolus: preparing for launch

ESA’s Martin Kaspers joins us at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, where Aeolus is being readied for liftoff on 21 August 2018. Martin discusses some of the challenges they have encountered developing this state-of-the-art satellite mission. Aeolus uses powerful laser technology that probes the lowermost 30 km of our atmosphere to yield vertical profiles of the wind and information on aerosols and clouds – a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space.

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Earth from Space: special edition

Discover more about our planet with the Earth from Space video programme. In this special edition, ESA’s Aeolus mission scientist, Anne Grete Straume, joins us in the cleanroom at Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse, France. She explains how winds are generated, how they affect our weather, and how Aeolus will measure the wind and how this information will be used to improve weather forecasts and climate models.

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Aeolus to understand winds

At the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Toulouse, France, ESA’s Aeolus wind satellite has been prepared for its launch on top of a Vega rocket from Kourou in French Guiana. Liftoff is currently scheduled for August. The development of this latest Earth Explorer started 16 years ago and has now finished.

From orbit Aeolus will measure wind profiles on a global scale using a pioneering laser technology. These measurements will greatly benefit existing meteorological models and fill a gap in the observations of wind.

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Earth from space: special edition

Discover more about our planet with the Earth from Space video programme. In this special edition, ESA’s Aeolus Project Manager, Anders Elfving, joins us in the cleanroom at Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse, France, to talk about the challenges in developing the mission’s pioneering laser technology.

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Profiling the wind

ESA’s Earth Explorer Aeolus satellite will be launched later this year to measure the world’s winds from space. The satellite carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit: Aladin, which includes two powerful lasers, a large telescope and very sensitive receivers. The laser generates ultraviolet light that is beamed down into the atmosphere to profile the world’s winds – a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space. These vertical slices through the atmosphere, along with information it gathers on aerosols and clouds, will improve our understanding of atmospheric dynamics and contribute to climate research. As well as advancing science, Aeolus will play an important role in improving weather forecasts. The mission will also complement information about the atmosphere being provided by the Copernicus Sentinel missions.