NOAA Satellite Conference addresses opportunities and challenges

NOAA Satellite Conference addresses opportunities and challenges



24 July 2017

A new era in satellite meteorology offers unprecedented opportunities to improve Earth observations and understanding, but also poses big challenges for users worldwide. A top-level World Meteorological Organization delegation outlined WMO’s strategic perspectives at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Satellite Conference 2017.

The latest generation of satellites from China, Europe, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russian Federation and the USA and other countries is becoming operational, providing unprecedented advances in weather forecasting, disaster risk reduction and climate monitoring.   The NOAA Satellite Conference, held in New York from 17-20 July focussed on a new era for NOAA Environmental Satellites, including GOES-16 which is the most advanced weather satellite ever developed in the US.

WMO President David Grimes and WMO Deputy Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova both delivered keynote addresses.

WMO Satellites


“Satellite earth observation is critical to inform our understanding and actions with respect to our environment, climate and weather and to meet our global commitments on climate change and sustainable devel

opment,” said Mr Grimes. “We have a responsibility to use Earth observations enormous potential to become more resilient through strengthened coordinated, comprehensive and s

ustained monitoring of the Earth’s hydrosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, biosphere and landscape changes,” he said.

The large numerical weather prediction centres already use millions of satellite observations per day, but climate predictions will require much more- But some critical observational gaps remain, he said.


“While the future of satellite earth observations is exciting, it is not without its challenges,” said Mr Grimes. He said there are new players and emerging space nations, as well as increased commercialization, and a trend in licensing/costs  towards transfer of cost to the users.

He said from the WMO perspective, there was a need to respect resolutions on free and open data, and a need to find a funding/business model that benefits from efficiency and from private sector innovation but does not undermine the public good. Global affordability of data is important for disaster/extreme weather events especially in developing countries, he stressed.

WMO Deputy Secretary-General Manaenkova outlined WMO activities to coordinate satellite observing systems, orbits and instruments for the WMO Integrated Global Observing System and to develop the architecture for climate monitoring from space.

“WMO’s support and training activities are designed to ensure that satellite users are confident and well prepared to maximize the potential of the new generation of satellites in improving weather forecasts, preventing weather, water and climate-related disasters and monitoring environmental change,” she said.

“WMO-led collaboration among satellite operators and users is critical to meet users needs and ensure safety and resilience of people all over the world." 

Resources and further information:

WMO Guidelines on Best Practices for Achieving User Readiness for New Meteorological Satellites available hereGuidelines for satellite users

The Satellite User Readiness Navigator (SATURN) online resource hosts up-to-date information on the new satellite systems, including on payload characteristics, calibration and other ground segment details, data format descriptions, proxy datasets, and preliminary data samples. SATURN is maintained jointly with satellite operators.

The space-based Observing Systems Capability Analysis and Review tool is part of the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) Operational Information Resource and contains comprehensive information on space-based systems of relevance to WMO.

Training events, virtual and classroom-based, organized by the WMO-CGMS Virtual Laboratory for Education and Training in Satellite Meteorology (VLab) in all WMO languages, has a strong emphasis on preparation for new-generation meteorological satellites (calendar of events available);

Guidance to design and implement satellite-related training programmes to support WMO competencies, provided through the Guideline on Satellite Skills and Knowledge for Operational Meteorologists  is available here

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