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

Meteorology, Meteorological, History

weather and





By Dr. Tillmann Mohr, Director-General of EUMETSAT
It is quite amazing to realise just what has been achieved since the uncertain days for meteorological satellites in the 1960s when Europe was beginning to explore the future of observing systems from space. In recent years technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, and so has the demand for observational data used by the meteorological and other scientific communities. Meteorological satellites have now taken their place alongside powerful computers as essential elements in national weather services.

I, like many of my contemporaries who were closely involved with European satellite meteorology and specifically the formation and development of EUMETSAT, am pleased to see this record of its history. In the early years of the Organisation I represented Germany as a Council delegate and as Chairman of the Policy Advisory Committee. This provided me with a valuable external perspective of the Organisation in its formative years while John Morgan was Director. A considerable amount of credit should go to him for steering EUMETSAT from its small but significant beginning in 1986 to what we see today. In 1995 I made the change from being a national representative to becoming the Director1 of EUMETSAT and am proud to have the opportunity to continue shaping the Organisation for the future.

Meteorologists worldwide are well known for their spirit of cooperation and this is clearly shown in the formation and evolution of EUMETSAT. Despite some heated debates over the years, the spirit of cooperation has always won the day. EUMETSAT is now an equal partner with other major meteorological satellite operators in the provision of long-term and reliable data to support weather forecasting and other related sciences.

This short history will provide the reader with an insight into the underlying scientific philosophies and political pressures that brought EUMETSAT into being and then on the road to maturity. We commissioned Helen Gavaghan, an established scientific writer, to research and prepare the text of this history because of her independence from European organisations and the politics involved with the creation and evolution of EUMETSAT. Our motive was to get an unbiased account that accurately reflects the unfolding scientific and political developments that shaped EUMETSAT into what it represents today.

There is a point at which history becomes current and "live" activity. For this reason we have ended the account of the Meteosat Second Generation and EUMETSAT Polar System evolutions at the major milestones when these programmes were fully approved. Subsequent events will be recorded in a future edition of the EUMETSAT history. Finally, the account that follows should confirm for the reader that in the years since its launch in 1986, EUMETSAT has consolidated its position in the world of satellite meteorology and is here to stay.

1 - In November 2000, with the entry into force of EUMETSAT's amended Convention, the title changed to Director-General.


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