New radar to measure global winds makes space mission shortlist
11 June 2021
A new radar on a satellite that would measure winds within clouds in order to better predict extreme weather has been shortlisted as a potential new space mission.
WIVERN (Wind Velocity Radar Nephoscope), being developed by a team led by the University of Reading, was one of four ideas selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to compete to be the launched into space on a satellite as the eleventh Earth Explorer mission.
If successful, WIVERN would become the first and only mission in the world to measure wind in clouds using a radar on a satellite with a rotating antenna so that it can sample a large area and observe winds over the whole planet at least once a day.
"We need observations of the winds inside hurricanes and the winter storms as they develop over the Atlantic to better predict when and where they will hit Europe" - Professor Anthony Illingworth, lead researcher on the WIVERN mission project at the University of Reading
Professor Anthony Illingworth, the atmospheric physicist at the University of Reading leading the development of WIVERN, said: “Weather forecasting has come a long way in recent decades, but we need observations of the winds inside hurricanes and the winter storms as they develop over the Atlantic to better predict when and where they will hit Europe, so that teams can be mobilised and be ready in time to take action in the regions likely to be affected.”
WIVERN was one of 15 proposals submitted following a call by the ESA in 2020 for ideas for a new Earth Explorer Mission with a budget cap of 250 million Euros.The radar will detect the frequency shift of the radar signals scattered from the cloud particles, the same radar technique that is used to measure the speed of cars. This is the same effect that causes the sound of a formula one car to change as it sweeps past.
The four chosen missions will now go through pre-feasibility studies, with further selection processes in 2023 and 2025. The one successful mission would be scheduled for launch in 2031-32.
Toni-Tolker Nielsen, Acting Director of Earth Observation at ESA, said: “Earth Explorers are Europe’s flagship research missions and are at the heart of our Future EO programme. For those already launched, they all continue to return remarkable scientific results and, without exception, have all gone way beyond their original objectives.