Weather Satellite History





Harry Wexler is one of the first scientists to envision using satellites for meteorological purposes; he is remembered as the father of the TIROS weather satellite. Tiros 1, was launched into low Earth orbit on 1 April 1960 to become the world’s first meteorological satellite. During its 77-day lifetime it returned 22 952 pictures. Despite its low resolution, the video camera showed clearly that Earth’s cloud cover was organised through patterns on a global scale, corresponding to major weather systems. Tiros 2 followed in November, too late for the 1960 hurricane season but ready for operation when the 1961 season began. From now on, tropical storms would no longer strike by surprise. More details

TIROS-1 Weather SatelliteThe weather satellite is a type of satellite that is primarily used to monitor the weather and climate of the Earth. Satellites can be polar orbiting, covering the entire Earth asynchronously, or geostationary, hovering over the same spot on the equator.

Meteorological satellites see more than clouds and cloud systems: city lights, fires, effects of pollution, auroras, sand and dust storms, snow cover, ice mapping, boundaries of ocean currents, energy flows, etc. Other types of environmental information are collected using weather satellites. Weather satellite images helped in monitoring the volcanic ash cloud from Mount St. Helens and activity from other volcanoes such as Mount Etna. Smoke from fires in the western United States such as Colorado and Utah have also been monitored.

Other environmental satellites can detect changes in the Earth’s vegetation, sea state, ocean color, and ice fields. For example, the 2002 Prestige oil spill off the northwest coast of Spain was watched carefully by the European ENVISAT, which, though not a weather satellite, flies an instrument (ASAR) which can see changes in the sea surface.

El Niño and its effects on weather are monitored daily from satellite images. The Antarctic ozone hole is mapped from weather satellite data. Collectively, weather satellites flown by the U.S., Europe, India, China, Russia, and Japan provide nearly continuous observations for a global weather watch. More details