No. 964 - Meteorological Satellites Make Growing Contribution to Socio-Economic Development

No. 964 - Meteorological Satellites Make Growing Contribution to Socio-Economic Development



6 November 2012
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Meteorological Satellites Make Growing Contribution to Socio-Economic Development


Lugano, Switzerland, 6 November 2012 - The Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites (CGMS) is celebrating 40 years of successful cooperation as it prepares to meet growing demands from a world which is increasingly vulnerable to the impact of weather and climate.

Created in 1972 by Europe, Japan, USA, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the CGMS has contributed to significantly improve, global planning, coordination and utilisation of meteorological satellites for weather forecasting and warning, as well as for scientific research, and more recently climate studies.

At its 40th anniversary meeting this week, the CGMS will harness past experience and expertise to devise a high-level priority plan to meet future challenges that will arise from the introduction of a new generation of meteorological satellites.

 “An increasing number of nations operate meteorological satellites to meet the unprecedented demands of society for weather, water and climate-related information,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “International coordination and cooperation provided by CGMS is essential if we are to maximize the contribution of satellite observations to socio-economic development and reducing disasters,” he said.

Satellite observations are now a major source of observational data for Numerical Weather Prediction Models, and are also essential for climate monitoring. Meteorological services have responded to this evolving demand by placing more stringent requirements on meteorological satellite systems.

As WMO and its partners develop the Global Framework for Climate Services, a fundamental building block for the provision of those climate services will be the architecture for climate monitoring from space, and its associated repository of climate data records. CGMS members, with their long series of satellite observations (from which climate data records are derived) and their long-term programmatic perspective, are uniquely placed to make a substantial contribution to this architecture.  

Furthermore, over the next decade, the deployment of new generations of meteorological satellite systems, which will provide a further boost impact on forecast accuracy needs to be carefully coordinated in order to reap the maximum benefit for users from their advanced instruments.  These examples underscore the need for CGMS to continue to promote international cooperation and to play a central coordination role in maintaining the space-based component of the WMO Integrated Global Observing System while helping guide its evolution.

The 40th CGMS plenary meeting held in Lugano, Switzerland, on 5-8 November 2012 will address the above challenges and discuss the operational and R&D systems of CGMS members which should make it possible to guarantee timely access to meteorological satellite data on a global scale. International coordination and cooperation is a particularly valuable asset in the current difficult economic circumstances.

The success of CGMS stems from the fact that it offers an all-inclusive forum where long term strategic goals can be set by senior management, while at the same time specific technical and scientific expertise is available to address more specialized detail subjects. The detailed expertise also means that participants have been very close to end users and can reflect their requirements through their discussions.

CGMS-40 is hosted by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland and the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, MeteoSwiss, together with WMO. The plenary session of CGMS-40 takes place 7-8 November 2012. EUMETSAT provides the CGMS Secretariat.

Background notes:

The Coordinated Group for Meteorological Satellites (CGMS) was created on 19 September 1972 by Europe, Japan, USA, and WMO to consider common interests relating to the design, operation and use of planned meteorological satellites. Today, there are 15 members including operational and R&D space agencies developing and operating meteorological and climate application satellites and missions. WMO is also a CGMS member as it has a unique role as representative of the world meteorological data user and provider community.

Governed by its Charter, the objectives of CGMS are:

  • To coordinate long-term and sustainable satellite systems relevant to weather and climate to which both operational and R&D space agencies contribute;
  • Through close interaction with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), to respond as far as possible to WMO’s requirements and related programmes (e.g. WIGOS, IOC/UNESCO, and GCOS).
  • To harmonise meteorological satellite mission parameters (such as orbits, sensors, data formats and downlink frequencies) to the greatest extent possible.
  • To encourage complementarity, compatibility and possible mutual back-up in the event of system failure through cooperative mission planning (the concept of “help thy neighbour”), compatible meteorological data products and services and the coordination of space and data-related activities, thus complementing the work of other international satellite coordinating mechanisms.
  • To provide a forum for the exchange of technical information on meteorological satellite systems and missions, such as reporting on the meteorological satellite status and future plans, telecommunications matters, operations, intercalibration of sensors, processing algorithms, products and their validation, archiving, data transmission formats and data transmission standards.

40 years of CGMS achievements (1972-2012)

Over the years, CGMS has triggered or contributed to a number of concrete achievements.

1. Establishment of a global baseline for geostationary meteorological satellite coverage

2. Establishment of a global back-up framework/contingency planning (“help thy neighbour”) which has been invoked several times over the past decades to ensure continuous global geostationary satellite data coverage

3. Optimisation of the Global Observing System (GOS) and response to the WMO Vision for the space-based GOS in 2025

4. Standardisation of data dissemination formats, and coordinated planning for the transition from an analogue to digital data stream for direct readout of data from polar orbiting satellites

5. Development of a common standard for the International Data Collection System (IDCS)

6. Development of an integrated strategy for data dissemination (GEONETCast)

7. Coordination of Radio Frequency Allocations and Protection of Radio Frequencies used in space-based remote sensing

8. Development of a coordinated approach to calibration and inter-calibration (GSICS)

9. Promotion and development of a coordinated framework for generating climate data records from space observations (SCOPE-CM)

10. Development of a framework for improving the quality of space-based atmospheric thermodynamic sounding products, rainfall products and Atmospheric Motion Vectors and the sponsorship of international science working groups that support those activities

11. Facilitation of a common approach to archiving of data (essential for climate monitoring applications)

12. Promotion of training in the use of meteorological and other satellite data and the development of the Virtual Training Laboratory (VLab)

Links to:

CGMS brochure

The World Meteorological Organization is the United Nations System’s authoritative voice on Weather, Climate and Water

For more information, please contact:

Clare Nullis, Media Officer, Communications and Public Affairs, Tel: +(41 22) 730 8478; 41-79) 7091397 (cell), Website:

Nina Aemisegger, Kommunikation, Tel  +41 44 256 94 10, Website:

Anne Taube, EUMETSAT International Relations. Tel +49 6151 807 4190, Cell: +49-151 151 48 335. Website

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