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EUMETSAT and the dust cover of the first history eChapter selector GavaghanCommunications

Meteorology, Meteorological, History

weather and




The information from Europe's satellites (current and future systems) is added to that from satellites and ground-based observing stations worldwide. After much complex coordinated scientific and technological effort, these global observations become forecasts that have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of everyone on Earth.

Even though we have all waited for the television weather bulletin at the end of the news, it is hard to remember - when sitting in a living room - just how important it is to know what the weather will do. Occasionally, an early riser might catch the shipping forecast from one of the National Meteorological Services, and then the power and untameable relentlessness of weather briefly and frighteningly enters a bedroom or living room - and is forgotten. The international news shows people clinging to treetops in Africa, and waiting with their hope ebbing for rescue. This saddens briefly, and is forgotten. Perhaps a river burst its banks in northern England, and the news shows people wearily shifting sodden belongings they may have spent a lifetime working for. Never mind, they are alive, we say, and forget. But that is not always the case. In a southern French village cameras catch the grief-stricken faces of friends and family shocked by the death of those close to them. People in a Spanish fishing village wait fearfully for news of a missing vessel.

There is a story for every nation, and still we forget. The weather forecast is often a subject for light-hearted conversation in the comer shop. The same conversation might turn to the price of the shop's goods. Yet these prices often depend on the quality of weather forecasts that govern the decisions made by road hauliers and farmers. When you scratch the surface there are many aspects of daily life where weather and our ability to predict it influences our activities.

"...the safety of populations and the efficient execution of numerous human activities are conditioned by meteorological data..."

And that, of course, is the justification for EUMETSAT's existence. Now the Organisation is moving into a new phase of its development. During the first decade of the century EUMETSAT will, for the first time, have a full suite of meteorological satellites aloft. They will send a rich stream of data to meteorologists working to unravel the cryptic messages of Earth observations at specialist centres throughout Europe and at EUMETSAT's headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany. The seeds for what the Organisation is about to do have their genesis in the pre-EUMETSAT days and in its first six years or so of existence.

This is the story of those first critical years of EUMETSAT and of its emergence as a mature intergovernmental Organisation. Even though the science and technology of meteorological satellites are challenging and fascinating subjects in their own right, this short history looks at the evolution of EUMETSAT as the Organisation that enables the science and technology to be implemented in the complicated European political world. In particular, the account explores EUMETSAT's central and crucial relationship with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the interactions between EUMETSAT's own Member States. In the first few years these were the relationships that


1. Meteorologists shed political shackles, a review of Declan Murphy's history of the first 25 years of EUMETSAT (2011), by Helen Gavaghan.

2. An interview in 2010 with Dr Tillman Mohr, a special advisor to the secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation, in Science, People & Politics.

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The History of EUMETSAT is available in English and French from EUMETSAT©.
First printed 2001. ISBN 92-9110-040-4

Eumetsat meteorology meteorological artificial satellites
European Space Agency weather climate policy politics history