For many of us it is the first thing we look at when getting our smartphone in the morning: the weather! Satellites play a crucial role in modern weather forecasts and developments in space technology will help improve these forecasts even more in the future.
This week the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) published an interview with Dutch weather anchor Gerrit Hiemstra, who is also the director and owner of the company Weather Impact. Gerrit talks about how space data are a critical element of modern weather forecasts and how new satellite technology will improve weather forecasts in the future. You can read the full interview on the NSO website here.
Television Weather Man
His weather forecasts appear on the television screens of millions of households at the end of every NOS news broadcast. Meanwhile, Gerrit Hiemstra is also working on sending weather forecasts to poor farmers in developing countries via text message. “They may not know what satellites are, but they can certainly benefit from them.”
As a meteorologist, do you often use satellite data?
“I do, but usually not directly; I mostly use the data indirectly. The satellite data are fed into the computer models that we use to generate weather forecasts. The data are mostly processed in what we call the “starting situation.” That is an overview of what the weather is currently like all over the planet, based on as many different data sources as possible – including satellite data. We do occasionally use satellite imagery directly, e.g. when we show the images to viewers during the evening news.”
How have space applications affected your field?
“I have been working in the field of meteorology since 1986. Since then, we have made enormous progress. Most of that is the result of two major developments. The first is the available processing power of our computers, which has increased exponentially.
The second is the volume of available data. We now have far more information at our disposal, most of which comes from satellites. Now that we have a better overview of the current weather and faster computers, we can create far more accurate and detailed weather forecasts.”
You contribute to NSO’s G4AW programme behind the scenes. What is your role in this programme?
“With Weather Impact, we take part in various consortia that provide weather forecasts to local – often poor – farmers in developing countries. That sounds easier than it is, because their situation is almost entirely unlike ours.”