Published on 22 April 2021
The youngest member of ESA's Earth Explorer family, Aeolus was launched in August 2018 and is the first satellite mission to provide profiles of Earth’s wind in cloud-free air globally. The satellite's novel Doppler wind lidar instrument measures the backscatter of laser light from air molecules through its Rayleigh channel and from clouds and aerosols through its Mie channel.
Aeolus was designed to fill the gap in wind-profile measurements in the weather observation network and improve the accuracy of numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. It also plays an important role in the advancement of our understanding of tropical dynamics and processes relevant to climate variability.
In January 2020, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) was the first meteorological agency to begin assimilating Aeolus wind data operationally after extensive tests showed that the data significantly improved weather forecasts, especially in the southern hemisphere and the tropics. Aeolus’ data were ready for operational use as early as sixteen months after launch, which is an extraordinary achievement for new types of satellite data.
Three of Europe’s biggest meteorological services followed in ECMWF’s footsteps: Germany’s Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD), Météo-France and the UK’s Meteorological Office (Met Office).