A history of meteorology from space

Artist's impression of the satellite NOAA-17



Launch of NASA's Vanguard II, which returned the first photograph from space of Earth's cloud cover.


NASA launched the Television Infrared Observation Satellite I (TIROS I), which proved that satellites can observe Earth's weather patterns. Subsequent TIROS satellites improved hurricane-tracking techniques and severe storm warnings, protecting lives and property in coastal areas around the world.


Satellite cloud pictures are used operationally at Met Office HQ in Bracknell.


US Environmental Sciences Services Administration I and II give the world's first global weather satellite system.


The satellites SMS-A (the first spacecraft to observe Earth from geosynchronous orbit) and SMS-B started producing cloud-cover pictures every 30 minutes for weather forecasters.


ESA's Meteosat 1 launched.


Seasat demonstrated techniques for global monitoring of Earth's oceans

Nimbus 7 was launched, carrying a TOMS instrument that provided 14 years of data on Earth's ozone layer. Data from TOMS were part of the scientific basis for treaties banning the manufacture and use of ozone-depleting chemicals.

Launch of the first satellite carrying TOVS.


The ESA's Meteosat-2 was launched. It was the first fully operational satellite of the Metosat series. and took over Meteosat operations in 1995.


The Earth Radiation Budget Satellite began its study of how Earth absorbs and reflects the Sun's energy.


The organisation EUMETSAT is created.


Launch of the satellite DMSP F8 and the first SSM/I instrument.


Meteosat-3 launched.


EUMETSAT's Meteosat-4 launched, marking the beginning of the EUMETSAT Meteosat Operational Programme (MOP).


Respectively launched in 1991 and 1995, the ERS-1 and ERS-2 satellites for earth observation are an ESA success. Thanks to the quality, reliability and originality of the on-board instruments, many findings related to the Earth environment have been made and many applications derived from them.

Meteosat-5, the second MOP satellite, is launched.


Data from the US-French TOPEX/Poseidon satellite began to detail the links between Earth's oceans and climate. By 1994, TOPEX data indicated that Earth's average global sea level had risen in the two previous years.


Meteosat-6 launched; the third and final MOP satellite.


Launch of GPS/Met, the first mission that successfully demonstrated the GPS radio occultation (GPSRO) concept to observe high vertical-resolution information on atmospheric temperature and humidity.

EUMETSAT takes over Meteosat operations.


Meteosat-7, the only satellite of the EUMETSAT Meteosat Transition Programme (MTP), was launched to maintain operations until the first Meteosat Second Generation satellite (MSG-1) was launched in 2002.


Launch of NOAA-15 and the beginning of the ATOVS era.


QuikScat, a satellite mission to monitor ocean winds, was launched.


Jason 1 satellite launched as a successor to the TOPEX/Poseidon ocean surface topography mission.


ESA's Envisat launched, an advanced polar-orbiting Earth observation satellite, designed to provide measurements of the atmosphere, ocean, land, and ice over a five-year period. Envisat data was used to support Earth science research and allow monitoring of the evolution of environmental and climatic changes.

Meteosat-8, the first of the second generation MSG satellites launched.

Launch of Aqua carrying AIRS, the first hyperspectral sounder to be assimilated operationally by NWP centres and AMSR-E which provided unprecedented quality of microwave imager data.


Meteosat-9, the second of the second generation Meteosat satellites launched. This brings the extra functionality of the MSG series into the operational domain.


MetOp-A, the first of three satellites for the EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS), was launched on 19 October 2006. The MetOp series of satellites was Europe's first polar orbiting operational meteorological satellite system, providing atmospheric temperature, humidity and ozone information, and wind speed and direction information over the ocean. EPS is the European contribution to the European-US 'Initial Joint Polar-Orbiting Operational Satellite System' (IJPS).

Launch of COSMIC constellation (six satellites) dedicated to GPSRO sounding.


Meteosat-5 decommissioned after over 16 years in orbit.


Jason-2 satellite launched as a successor to the Jason-1 ocean surface topography mission.


The last of the NOAA polar orbiting satellite series, NOAA-19, was launched, bringing to an end a 30-year programme of operational meteorological satellites with the AVHRR imager, (A)TOVS sounder and SBUV ozone sensors.

Last updated: 11 April 2011