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NOAA, European Agency Sign Weather Monitoring Agreement

29 August 2013
Image of Earth, showing Africa, oceans and portions of other continents (EUMETSAT)

An August 28, 2013, image from Meteosat, a geostationary satellite operated by EUMETSAT, whose fleet of meteorological satellites has provided weather and climate data for more than 25 years

Washington — Building on a 30-year relationship, top officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) signed a long-term cooperative agreement, ensuring continued space-based weather, water and climate monitoring.

At a ceremony at the European Union (EU) Delegation in Washington August 27, Kathryn D. Sullivan, NOAA acting administrator, and Alain Ratier, EUMETSAT’s director-general, signed the agreement. They were joined by François Rivasseau, deputy head of the EU Delegation to the United States.

“The need for environmental intelligence has never been stronger. This partnership with our EUMETSAT colleagues allows us to continue collecting and sharing vital space-based observations, resulting in a better understanding of our global environment,” Sullivan said, according to an August 28 NOAA news release.

Ratier added: “The partnership between EUMETSAT and NOAA has continuously developed over the last 30 years and taken a strategic dimension, bringing substantial benefits to Europe, the USA and the worldwide user communities. Today, the partnership covers backup arrangements and data exchange for geostationary satellites and full sharing of low Earth orbit satellite systems, with the Initial Joint Polar System and the Jason series.

“With this agreement, we have established a policy framework to further develop our cooperation into the next decades,” Ratier said.

These are among the key successes of the NOAA-EUMETSAT partnership:

• NOAA and EUMETSAT operate a joint polar satellite system, where EUMETSAT’s Metop satellites fly in the midmorning orbit, while NOAA’s polar satellites and the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) spacecraft fly in the afternoon orbit. Both agencies share all the data, which form the backbone of all medium-range weather forecasts in the United States and Europe and make up the majority of the data used by the U.S. weather model (GFS) and the major European weather model (ECMWF).

• NOAA instruments fly onboard the EUMETSAT satellites, and EUMETSAT instruments are on the NOAA spacecraft, providing cost savings and more uniform data sets for meteorologists and scientists across continents.

• NOAA and EUMETSAT also exchange data from geostationary satellites and have a backup agreement in place for data sharing should either agency’s spacecraft experience trouble.

• The partnership also extends to the Jason-2 ocean surface topography mission, which has been crucial to improvements in weather modeling and tropical storm intensification forecasting and is supporting the EU-led Copernicus Earth Observation program with data from the Suomi NPP satellite.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage U.S. coastal and marine resources. More information about NOAA satellites is available on the NOAA satellite website.

Artist's conception of satellite over Earth (NOAA)

A rendering of the Suomi NPP satellite, NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite and the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe the many facets of a changing Earth