Australian Weather Calendar

Captions and picture bylines below.
Chris Meier, Chris Bull and Matt Gould help assemble the satellite ground station outside of Darwin. Imagery of atmospheric water vapour from the MODIS instrument on the Aqua satellite.

February: Beyond the familiar weather satellite images

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BUREAU of Meteorology technical officer Chris Bull recently helped construct a fully automated unmanned satellite ground station at Central Plains in the Northern Territory. He now helps maintain its tracking antenna, processing computers, communications equipment and backup power.

The $2 million station – sited 65 km southeast of Darwin to minimise electronic interference – draws data from the new generation of meteorological and earth-observing satellites, which offer far more information than the weather satellite images seen in the media. These data, together with more conventional observations, support national meteorological observations and services and have many applications.

For instance, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer (MODIS) is used to support weather forecasting, detect volcanic eruptions, estimate vegetation cover, measure sea-surface temperature and detect bushfires. Each day the Bureau uses about 250,000 satellite observations from 22 instruments on 12 satellites.