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Aeolus wind data boosts innovative new global wind comparison tool

19 Dec 2023

Wind researchers are in for a treat this winter. A new system for comparing wind data from multiple observing platforms, including ESA’s Aeolus wind satellite, puts global wind data - and the tools needed to analyse them - all in one place.

Led by Katherine Lukens and colleagues at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the System for Analysis of Wind Collocations (SAWC) is poised to innovate wind-related research.

The aim of SAWC was to address the need for highly accurate 3D wind observations and to provide researchers with the data and tools needed to analyse winds from multiple observation platforms.

Historically, that has been a time-consuming task.

“If researchers want to evaluate winds observed by different platforms, they no longer need to acquire and reformat the data themselves, nor must they develop their own analysis tools, all of which take time to do,” said Katherine Lukens. “With SAWC this has already been done for you.”

Aeolus winds matched with aircraft winds in September 2019
Aeolus winds matched with aircraft winds in September 2019

Launched in 2018 and outliving its design lifetime by over 18 months, ESA’s Aeolus satellite trailblazed the use of Doppler wind lidar in space.

Its global wind measurements went above and beyond to complement and improve weather forecasts, significantly boosting weather predictions in hard-to-reach parts of the globe such as the tropics.

Aeolus wind data were first used operationally by the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF)’s models, followed by various major forecasting services throughout Europe and internationally.

Having orbited Earth sixteen times a day for nearly five years, Aeolus’s wind data provide an invaluable intercomparison tool for global wind observations from diverse sources.

Although the satellite returned to Earth in an historic reentry in the summer of 2023, through tools such as SAWC, its data will improve weather and climate models for years to come.

SAWC, which is publicly available online, includes:

  • A multi-year global archive of 3D winds observed by aircraft, sondes, stratospheric superpressure balloons, and satellites including Aeolus
  • Identified pairings between select datasets collocated in space and time, for select time periods
  • A downloadable software application designed for users to interactively collocate and statistically compare wind observations based on their research needs
  • All wind data provided in NetCDF format, for easy intercomparison
  • A user manual
Aeolus winds matched with aircraft observations
Aeolus winds matched with aircraft observations

The software application is designed to be relatively easy-to-use and flexible and capable of handling additional datasets not yet available in the archive. The potential uses are wide-ranging, from product validation and observation error characterisation to advancements in global Earth observation architecture.

More to come from Aeolus

Whilst Aeolus may no longer be measuring wind from space, there’s a lot more to come from the wind mission.

The Aeolus Data, Innovation and Science Cluster (DISC) is beginning five years’ worth of data crunching to ensure Aeolus data are as pristine as possible for future wind research.

Along with reprocessed datasets, new and improved products, including Rayleigh cloudy winds and land surface reflectance, will be made available.

“Aeolus was a pioneer in its time in space and it’s a pleasure to see its unique record of global winds continue to have an invaluable impact long after its reentry,” said Aeolus Mission Manager, Tommaso Parrinello. “As we enter Phase F of the mission, there’s plenty more to come.”

SAWC was jointly developed by the NOAA/NESDIS/Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR), the Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies (CISESS) at the University of Maryland’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, and the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For more information on SAWC, you can read the preprint published in December 2023.