News > Weather satellites
Image Greg Goebel
Since 1960's, the meteorological data gathered by satellites has become a very important source of information for weather forecasting. The first successful weather satellite (TIROS-1) was launched by NASA on April 1, 1960. It was operational for two and a half months and mainly recorded images of the cloud patterns.
The latest state of art satellite, called Metop-B was launched this week from Kazakhstan; it will measure the air temperature, moisture content and cloud properties, as well as the ice and snow cover, sea surface temperature and even the pollution. There are two types of 'weather satellites' – polar orbiting (covering the earth from pole to pole) and geostationary (hovering over the same area above the equator). Satellite Metop-B will join its twin Metop-A (launched in 2006) at an altitude of 800 km. The two satellites are polar orbiting, which means providing the data from the whole earth. The information collected by the satellites is used for forecasting the weather all around the world. The data is fed into supercomputers which run the numerical weather prediction models, the main source of today's weather forecasting.