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About Aeolus

Aeolus in orbit

ESA's Earth Explorer, Aeolus, was launched into space on 22 August 2018. This new satellite type provides novel global observations of wind profiles from the surface up to 30 km altitude.

Although there are several ways of measuring wind from a satellite, Aeolus utilises the active Doppler Wind Lidars (DWL) method. This is currently the only technology that can provide direct wind profile observations in clear air, inside thin clouds and aerosol layers and on top of thick clouds globally. In addition, a DWL provides information on cloud top heights and the vertical distribution of thin clouds and aerosol.

An improved knowledge of Earth's wind fields will lead to progress in atmospheric dynamics research and weather forecasting. Forecast impact experiments by a number of leading meteorological institutes across the world have shown that Aeolus observations lead to an improvement of operational weather forecasting. The experiments show that the impact is largest in the tropics, southern hemisphere, polar areas and in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, where there are currently very few direct wind observations in the Global Observing System of the World Meteorological organization (WMO).

The provision of global wind profiles will also benefit climate research. Climate models are similar to weather models, but predict the evolution of the coupled Earth System (atmosphere, land, ocean and ice) on the scale of years rather than days. As for weather forecast models, the key atmospheric variables in climate models are wind, temperature, pressure and humidity. The Aeolus winds will be used to evaluate climate models, and for the improvement of modelling of the global atmospheric transport and cycling of energy, water, aerosols and chemicals.

Aeolus Objectives

Aeolus objectives

The Aeolus mission objectives is to provide accurate global measurements of winds from the surface up to 30 km.

The Aeolus mission will contribute to:

  • Improve weather forecasts for society
  • Understand atmospheric dynamics
  • Provide information on aerosols and clouds
  • Fill the current major gap in the atmospheric observing system
  • Understand climate change
  • Help to track air pollution
  • Track desert dust, smoke and volcanic ash
  • Wind-energy management
  • Pave the way for future wind lidar missions

Aeolus Instrument

The Atmospheric Laser Doppler Instrument (ALADIN) is a Direct Detection Doppler Lidar operating in the ultra-violet spectral region (355 nm). The instrument generates and sends a series of short UV light pulses through its telescope into the Earth's atmosphere. The UV light, which is invisible to the naked eye, is scattered by particles, ice crystals and cloud droplets (called Mie scattering) and air molecules (called Rayleigh scattering) along the path of the instrument's line-of-sight within its narrow field of view.
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