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A change in the weather

There are many things that underline the differences between people - their nationality, their upbringing, their profession -  but there are some things that bring them all together. One of those things is the weather. No matter where you are - be it Tokyo, Toulouse or Timbuktu - or what you do, at some point the weather is going to impact your day. Find out how the way that weather is forecast is changing .

In an information age weather forecasts are literally at our fingertips 24 hours a day. A quick glance at our smartphone allows us to see whether we need to put on an extra layer of clothing, or pack an umbrella for the day. We have become used to technology which is able to provide a weather forecast for a three- or four-hour period.

Although that level of exactitude is in itself impressive, the technology is not standing still. Since 2011 EUMETSAT (the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites), which provides weather and climate-related data to its member states across Europe, has been working on the MTG (Meteosat Third Generation) programme, designed to secure weather and climate data for Europe for the next 30 years.

Ten instruments on board each of MTG’s three imaging and three sounding satellites collect data every ten seconds. This data is more detailed than ever before, and is gathered in far greater quantities.

However, raw data on its own, without a means to process it, is of little use, and it is in this area that Thales’s partnership with EUMETSAT is key.

Thales is able to propose an innovative solution which uses big data technology– notably for companies such as Google and LinkedIn – and chains of complex algorithms developed for others fields, providing both the software and the hardware needed to process these vast amounts of data securely and in real time. Thales’s data centre will process hundreds of terabytes of EUMETSAT data – the equivalent of 200 DVDs – every single hour. This data will be sent to the different national weather centres across Europe, where analysts will then be able to provide weather forecasts that are accurate to within a timeframe of one hour and a distance of 100 metres!

Knowing the weather forecast in this level of detail may not have an enormous impact on a daily commute to work, but there are situations in which it can be critical. Air traffic control is a prime example. Recent years have seen an upsurge in two key areas: the volume of air traffic – increasing at a rate of 5% per year – and the number of extreme weather phenomena, such as thunderstorms and cyclones. 

The data that is analysed by the national weather services across Europe is also made available to air traffic control centers, where the increased level of detail leads to better air traffic management. Not only does this make air travel more comfortable, but more importantly it makes it safer, since pilots can be informed of severe or even hazardous weather conditions in real time and take the necessary actions to avoid them.

Helping people stay dry can improve their day, but keeping them safe can change their lives!