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Europe introduces high-tech satellite to speed up extreme weather warnings

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Europe unveiled the first of a 4 billion euro ($4 billion) family of satellites designed to provide earlier warning of extreme weather that has wreaked havoc around the world this year on Wednesday.

The MTG-11 satellite, the result of 12 years of development for the European space agency and the 30-nation EUMETSAT, will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket by the end of this year, providing sharper eyes in space over Europe and Africa.

By 2030, the 3.8-tonne spacecraft will be joined in geostationary orbit by three more MTG-I imaging satellites and two MTG-S “sounding” satellites capable of slicing the atmosphere like a medical scanner.

The hope is that forecasters will save time in predicting near-term storms and floods, which can be fatal. Scanning the atmosphere will also provide a more accurate picture of current conditions for their computerised models.

“The ability to compute the initial state is a real challenge today,” said Herve Roquet, deputy director of research at Meteo France.

According to European officials, China has experimented with the technology with lower accuracy but has yet to deploy it, despite the fact that Beijing’s space programme is rapidly developing.

Engineers believe the sounding, or scanning, technique will detect storms before they appear on traditional radar.

“We can see the storm as it develops “. It detects it, and we can then predict it “MTG programme manager at the European Space Agency, Paul Blythe, stated.

Engineers swarmed around the satellite, shaped like a small truck, on Wednesday at a shorefront clean-room complex run by Franco-Italian Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France, to make final checks before its solar array is installed in the coming days.

Their clean-room gowns were emblazoned with logos representing the European system in which companies share work based on national investment, with Thales Alenia Space leading the project in collaboration with Germany’s OHB and Italy’s Leonardo.

“The more responsive and capable these satellites are, the better they will be at following extremely dynamic weather events,” said Cristian Bank, EUMETSAT’s development director.

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