Scottish scientists develop satellite system to improve extreme weather forecasting

The data will enable near real-time forecasts for sectors like insurance, transport and shipping
The data will enable near real-time forecasts for sectors like insurance, transport and shipping
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Scottish scientists are developing a satellite-based system to improve forecasting of extreme weather anywhere in the world.

The newly-formed International Centre for Earth Data (ICED) – involving a team from the University of Edinburgh and satellite technology provider Orbital Micro Systems (OMS) – will gather, process and deliver weather information from public and commercial sources for researchers, governments and commercial enterprises.

The data will enable near real-time forecasts for sectors like insurance, transport and shipping. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The data will enable near real-time forecasts for sectors like insurance, transport and shipping. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The ICED will enable near real-time monitoring and improved forecasts for sectors such as insurance, agriculture, aviation, and shipping.

Based at the university, the programme will capture and analyse data from OMS’ planned constellation of 40 satellites – each about the size of a large shoebox.

These missions will include the first launch of the recently announced UK spaceflight programme, using the planned spaceport on Scotland’s north coast.

The technology will be equipped with sensors gathering quarter-hourly updates on global conditions such as temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure.

The data stream will be interpreted for clients enabling near real-time decision making and high-value forecasts.

Following the deal, researchers from OMS will move to the Bayes Centre – the university’s soon-to-open hub for data science and technology.

They will work with researchers in high performance computing, geosciences and informatics to design data and analytics technology for the sensors. The University of Colorado Boulder is also involved in the ICED. Professor Mark Parsons, associate dean for e-research at Edinburgh university, said: “Our expertise in data science means we are perfectly placed to support the sophisticated production of regular and reliable weather information for recipients around the world.”

William Hosack, chief executive officer of OMS, said the research would help hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

“Output from the International Centre for Earth Data will impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world through applications relevant to everyday life – such as improved crop yields, safer route planning for flights and shipping, and better land management where forest fires, landslides, and other natural disasters are prevalent.

“We’re delighted to join forces with the University of Edinburgh and our partners at the University of Colorado to deliver solutions that will have a profound impact on all aspects of humanity.”