15 Jul 2015

Earth pictures every 10 minutes from new weather satellite

A powerful new weather satellite has just become operational, bringing amazingly detailed and frequent pictures of earth from space.

The new Himawari-8 geostationary meteorological satellite, managed by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), began operating on 7 July 2015, replacing the previous MTSAT-2.


Himawari-8 was launched into space on 7 October 2014, but has since then been used for testing and calibration.

Such is the power of this new satellite, the JMA believes that it will have the capacity for superior earth monitoring, using it to open the door to a new generation of satellite meteorology.

A picture of earth every 10 minutes

One of the most significant features is the satellite’s ability to constantly take a picture of earth from space every 10 minutes.

On a country level, the satellite will offer pictures of Japan from space at a frequency of every two-and-a-half minutes, giving invaluable amounts of data.

However, as it is a geostationary satellite, it sits above earth in the same location, meaning that it only monitors one side of the planet – in this case, the Asia-Pacific and Australasia regions.

Nevertheless, its ability to capture such frequent images from space, combined with the fact that it offers more detail – down to a resolution of 0.5km – means that the monitoring of weather will become easier.

The benefits

Having such frequent and detailed images is invaluable for weather forecasting centres around the world.

Not only will they be able to monitor and study the progress of dangerous typhoons, they will also have more detailed data to put into weather computer models.

nangka2Typhoon Nangka south of Japan on 15 July 2015

Weather computer models ingest satellite data to establish what is happening in the atmosphere right now. This information is then extrapolated to provide a forecast for the future. So the better the data that is put in, the better the forecast that comes out.

Given that the effects of climate change and phenomena such as El Nino are likely to have the greatest impacts on weather within the tropics, this powerful new satellite will contribute significantly to the prevention and mitigation of weather-related disasters in the future.

Images: Japan Meteorological Agency

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