August 2008

China launches weather satellite


launchChina launched the first of its new generation of polar-orbiting meteorological satellites, Fengyun-3A, on 27 May 2008 from Taiyuan satellite launch centre in Shanxi Province. The payload of this new generation spacecraft is comprised of a complex suite of instruments including visible and infrared imagers, infrared and microwave sounders, a microwave imager, an ultra-violet spectroradiometer and a space environment monitor. These instruments are designed to provide three-dimensional quantitative data in support of numerical weather prediction and environment monitoring.

The infrared and microwave sounders will provide all-weather observation of the vertical distribution of atmospheric temperature and humidity. Visible and infrared imagery is used to characterize the cloud coverage and measure land and sea-surface temperature. With the measurement of ocean colour, which is an important variable in the global carbon cycle, of total ozone and of the Earth radiation budget, Fengyun-3A will also make a significant contribution to climate and environment monitoring. The space environment monitor detects charged particles in solar wind that can affect the status of the spacecraft.

Fengyun-3A will operate on a sun-synchronous orbit, inclined at 82 degrees above the equatorial plane, at an altitude of about 836 km. China will continue to fulfil its commitment to provide the direct read-out service of the Fengun-3A satellite to all WMO Members.

Fengyun-3A will be part of the constellation of polar-orbiting sun-synchronous satellites that currently includes the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Polar Operational Environmental Satellite satellites and the Metop-A satellite of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and a Russian Federation METEOR series satellite to be launched by the end of 2008.

The goal of the WMO Global Observing System is to meet the observation needs of all WMO programmes dealing with weather, climate, water and disaster prevention and mitigation, as well as WMO-supported initiatives such as the World Climate Research Programme and the Global Climate Observing System. It is a major contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems. The polar-orbiting satellites, together with the geostationary satellites, constitute a core space-based component of the WMO Global Observing System.

The China Meteorological Administration says that a weather radar network will be built over the next two years to cover the entire country and a meteorological risk assessment system will be in place by 2011.

WMO Space Programme


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