DO NOT use technical or any other means to associate adverts with this URL.
As site manager, owner, url creator and poster of this page I have not authorised or sold adverts.
This page may be printed freely without notifying the CLA. Note author and copyright ownership.

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

Meteorology, Meteorological, History

weather and





By Dr. Henri Malcorps, Chairman of the EUMETSAT Council

It is a great pleasure for me to introduce this overview of the initial history of EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. That a history of a relatively young organisation is at all necessary is remarkable. What makes such a history essential is that meteorological satellites have transformed the ability of meteorologists the world over to visualise and understand weather phenomena on a huge scale, from individual cloud clusters right up to the global circulation of the planet itself. Meteorological satellites, together with increasingly powerful computers, sophisticated computer models and other new tools such as weather radars, have resulted in radically improved weather forecasts and a better understanding of climate during the last few decades of the twentieth century.

At the start of the twenty-first century it is still only 40 years since the first experimental weather satellite was launched. Within the last 30 years Europe has acquired its own capability of building, launching and operating weather satellites. It has, even more remarkably, been able to establish the cooperative activities, agreed unanimously by 17 European nations, that put Europe amongst the forefront of space-faring nations. Only five other nations in the world have this capability - and Europe, through EUMETSAT, is one of the leaders of this select group.

Today, EUMETSAT has fully approved plans for two series of satellites that will observe the entire planet on an operational basis over at least the coming two decades. Such systems cost some billions of Euro to implement, so it is important to understand how the decisions were made to spend such large amounts of money on a European-wide scale. Less than half a century ago the very concept of weather satellites would have been impossible to comprehend. Even 30 years ago their potential was only just becoming apparent, but this led to the initiatives by a few visionaries for a first European weather satellite - Meteosat.

National weather services require systems with a long-term operational capability covering seven days a week and 24 hours a day. When the first Meteosat was built there was no consensus at all about how that could be achieved. It was nearly ten years after the launch of this satellite that 16 European nations finally came to agree in 1986 on a political, practical and, above all, financial structure that would enable this capability to continue and develop.

Even after all the debates that led to the establishment of the fledgling EUMETSAT Organisation in that year, it had a tiny


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.

eChapter| |TOP













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

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Valid CSS!

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