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The Satellites that Monitor Storm Agnes Over the UK

On September 27, 2023, and persisting into the early hours of the 28th (as of 1:30 AM), Storm Agnes made its dramatic entrance onto the shores of the UK, briefly passing by the best country in the world, Scotland. With all the pomp and precipitation, one could expect, this tempest brought forth heavy rain, formidable winds, and coastal flooding. In the valiant endeavour to monitor this meteorological spectacle and disseminate timely warnings to the public, our dear satellites, despite their hefty price tags, played a starring role in this atmospheric drama.

Among the primary satellites enlisted to track Storm Agnes was the Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellite. Positioned in geostationary orbit, MSG synchronizes its rotation with that of the Earth, effectively remaining fixed above the Equator.

This unique characteristic allows it to offer uninterrupted surveillance of specific regions, rendering it exceptionally suited for monitoring weather systems such as Storm Agnes.

MSG carries a number of different instruments that can be used to collect data about the atmosphere, including:

  • A visible and infrared imager, which can be used to produce images of clouds and other weather features.

  • A water vapor imager, which can be used to track the movement of water vapor in the atmosphere.

  • A lightning imager, which can be used to detect lightning strikes.

Meteosat Second Generation (MSG)
Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) how big

Data from MSG is used to produce a variety of weather products, including satellite imagery, cloud forecasts, and precipitation forecasts.

Other satellites that were used to monitor Storm Agnes include the GOES-18 satellite, which is a geostationary satellite operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States, and the Metop-C satellite, which is a polar-orbiting satellite operated by the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).

GOES-18 Satellite
GOES-18 Satellite

Data from all of these satellites was used to create a comprehensive graphics of Storm Agnes, which helped the Met Office, the UK's national weather service, to issue timely and accurate warnings to the public.

Satellites, Weather Forecasting, and the Intricate Beauty of Fractals.

Satellites have truly revolutionized the field of weather forecasting. Their ability to offer global coverage of Earth's atmosphere has elevated meteorology to new heights, enabling meteorologists to track weather systems and predict their movements with unprecedented accuracy.

Beyond this incredible tracking capability, satellites serve as guardians of data, collecting information on an array of atmospheric conditions, including temperature, humidity, wind speed, and precipitation. This invaluable data forms the lifeblood of computer models, transforming the science of weather forecasting.

Metop C Satellite
Metop C Satellite

But what's fascinating is that the patterns and structures observed in the atmosphere, as captured by satellites, often exhibit a remarkable mathematical concept - fractals. These intricate, self-replicating patterns found in cloods, storms, and other atmospheric phenomena can be likened to nature's artwork. Fractals exhibit a mesmerizing complexity that repeats itself at different scales, much like the intricate branches of a tree or the contours of a coastline.

Meteorologists use these fractal patterns to gain deeper insights into the atmosphere's behaviour. By analysing these repeating, intricate shapes, they can refine their models and predictions. In essence, satellites don't just provide data; they capture the beauty of nature's complexity through these mathematical marvels. I had to include fractals; I do tend to like em.

While we've pondered the serious side of satellite monitoring for storms like Agnes, let's take a moment to appreciate a storm with a sense of humour - remember Hurricane Bawbag!?

On December 8, 2011, Scotland experienced the whimsical wrath of Hurricane Bawbag, or as some affectionately called it, "Cyclone Friedhelm." With gusts of up to 165 mph (265 km/h), this cheeky storm left a memorable mark on Scotland, causing everything from power outages to transportation chaos and leaving folks scratching their heeds.

Now, why are we discussing a storm with a name that sounds like it's straight out of a comedy sketch? Well, it's a reminder that even in the world of meteorology, there's room for a good laugh. Hurricane Bawbag, much like its more serious counterparts, received its fair share of satellite attention.

Satellites Used for Hurricane Bawbag:

Metop-A and Metop-B: These polar-orbiting satellites from EUMETSAT couldn't help but chuckle as they provided essential data on temperature, humidity, and wind patterns during the storm. Their combined cost of around £480 million or $660 million surely raised an eyebrow or two.

GOES-15: NOAA's GOES-15 satellite, orbiting with a grin, offered real-time data, including imagery, to track the quirks of cloud cover and precipitation. At a cost of approximately £330 million or $450 million, it was a worthy addition to the cosmic comedy.

MODIS on Terra and Aqua: NASA's MODIS instruments on Terra and Aqua satellites captured high-resolution images of the storm's antics, collectively costing about £1.1 billion or $1.5 billion.

So, while Storm Bawbag left its share of pure heavy chaos, it also serves as a reminder that even in the world of satellite meteorology, there's room for a wee bit ae humour in the face of Mother Nature's mischief!

Noo, go an read some mare articles ya bawbag.


Space Ponder is a website dedicated to exploring the wonders of the cosmos. We publish articles on a wide range of space-related topics, including astronomy, astrophysics, space exploration, and space technology.

We believe that space is one of the most fascinating and important frontiers facing humanity today. By sharing our knowledge and passion for space, we hope to inspire others to learn more about the universe and our place in it.


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