Wednesday, April 14, 2010
It’s time for Australia’s first Weather Satellite
Where do we currently stand for our geostationary weather forecasting. The US, Japan and China at the moment, provides us with most of our weather data from the NOAA-17 and NOAA-18, MTSAT-1R and FY-2C satellite’s in Geostationary orbit. As far as I am aware, these countries provide this data to Australia entirely free, and we have never contributed a single dollar to the construction of these satellites, despite being almost completely dependent on them.
Now some would label this situation fantastic – all our data, for free. Others would suggest that it is a form of first world aid, whereby Australia is grouped with all of the other countries that need to rely on foreign countries for their basic needs.
I want to take a slightly different angle on this one. I say we now need to invest in an Australian weather satellite system, primarily, we need to get the best data possible for Australia. Japanese Weather Satellites that we rely on heavily are tailored for Japan's specific needs and weather conditions - providing measurements suitable for Japan. And why wouldn’t they? Japan pays full cost for the system, so why wouldn’t they have the best coverage? Coverage for many GEO meteorology satellites often provide higher resolution and better capabilities for the specific countries that fund the systems.
This means Australia is being left behind. And what’s worse, is the area we are being left behind in is our weather and climate information. Crucial for our agriculture, our disaster monitoring, our economy, and the lives of Australians.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has been doing some fantastic work for well over 100 years, and I have no doubt that they will continue to do great work in the future. However, it is now time that we give them world class equipment, to do world class work, tailored to look down on Australia, with the best possible data for Australia. This would also allow us to stop freeloading on our friends, and allow us to contribute valuable data back to them in return for the free ride we’ve been having for so long.
Yes it costs money, but if we can better forecast our rainfall, our droughts, our cyclones and our climate change, the long term economic benefits will far outweigh the initial infrastructure cost.