The European Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) weather satellite programme is expected to transform national meteorological services in Africa. Anne Taube reports on the Preparation for the Use of MSG in Africa (PUMA) project, and how it will benefit user communities in Africa.
On 28 August 2002, the Meteosat-8 satellite was successfully launched from Kourou in French Guyana. Developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), Meteosat-8 is the first in a series of Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) weather satellites. The new satellites will monitor weather and environmental systems over Europe and the whole of Africa, and will transmit detailed data and high-resolution spectral and spatial images every 15 minutes.
The data and images provided by Meteosat-8 are expected to revolutionize the process of forecasting short-term extreme weather events, such as thunderstorms, fog and small but intense depressions that can lead to devastating storms. They will also be suitable for a wide range of other applications, including agrometeorology, climate monitoring, and natural resource management.
To assist user communities in Africa obtain and utilize the satellite data, EUMETSAT has initiated the Preparation for the Use of MSG in Africa (PUMA) project, which is financed through the European Development Fund (EDF). The PUMA project offers the participating countries and four regional centres in Africa a wide range of support, including:
- equipment to ensure continuous direct reception of meteorological and environmental satellite data;
- software to operate the equipment and to derive usable products, such as weather forecasts, rainfall estimates, real-time observations of fires, floods and sea surface temperatures;
- training to ensure the effective use of MSG data; and
- support for the development of new applications, and effective, user-focused services.
Based on the MSG data, African national meteorological services, in partnership with development agencies, will be able to develop applications in various fields, such as water management (e.g. flood forecasting, monitoring and damage assessment), agricultural management (including food security monitoring and assessments of post-crisis food aid requirements), and environmental monitoring (e.g. forest fires, pests, and changes in land cover).
Pilot MSG data receiving stations have already been installed in Mauritius, Nairobi (Kenya) and Niamey (Niger). In the coming year, further receiving stations will be installed to assist national meteorological services in Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Senegal, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere in Africa.