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

Meteorology, Meteorological, History

weather and




Organisation should consider a much bigger role for itself in the meteorological aspects of future ground segments. For a modestly sized Organisation with a planned staff of ten, the strategy was strikingly ambitious.

Morgan's thinking at the time was that a staff complement of 44 by the early 1990s could accomplish the tasks outlined. The idea of taking over operation of the satellites themselves and of their mission was not proposed. Indeed the plan says specifically that, "Spacecraft and mission control need not be the direct concern of EUMETSAT." So, whilst the proposals were comprehensive in scope, they did not envisage the growth that in fact took place and led to the Organisation as it is today, with over 160 approved staff posts and a similar number of contractors, with responsibility for implementing and operating geostationary and polar orbiting satellites and their ground segments.

What the plan did do, however, was open such a broad discussion about principle that when delegates endorsed its objectives during the next Council meeting, in September 1987, they laid a foundation that was sufficiently strong to support unexpected organisational developments during later years. For example, the principle of a greater operational role for EUMETSAT was accepted. Though the acceptance was made initially in the context of taking over extraction of meteorological information from raw satellite data, the Council's in-principle decision opened the way for EUMETSAT's later decision to take over satellite operations during the Meteosat Transition Programme (MTP).

Presenting the plan was, says Morgan, unnerving because he had prepared it with little initial guidance. The plan's skeleton was constructed during the Autumn of 1986 and discussed internally. By February, part of the plan was presented in draft form to the Scientific and Technical Group (STG). Then, during the Easter holiday in 1987, Morgan sat in his garden in the UK and completed the version that was presented to the Council.

Preparing the Long-Term Plan was only one of the many tasks Morgan faced during the first few months of EUMETSAT's existence. At the time, he was supported by a staff of only four, and their life was frenetic. Together they did everything, from buying furniture - on Morgan's credit card - to providing secretariat support to the Council, to liaising with users and preparing the Organisation's budget for 1987. There was no time for anyone to stand on dignity. Though Morgan was busy establishing EUMETSAT on the international stage at satellite meteorology meetings in New Delhi and Washington DC, and though he was writing the Long-Term Plan and budget for 1987, he still had to pick up a screwdriver and assemble furniture.

Tillmann Mohr, the Organisation's current Director-General who has been a prominent figure in the development of satellite meteorology in Europe since the late 1960s, says that Morgan deserves much credit for the plan.

Speaking to Mohr in his light and airy office in EUMETSAT's purpose-built headquarters, it is clear to see how far EUMETSAT has come. In 1987, instead of insulated quietness, there would have been the noise of carpenters installing a


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

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