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Young scientists bid farewell to ESA's wind mission

17 Jul 2023

ESA's wind mission, Aeolus
ESA's wind mission - An artist's impression of Aeolus

Students and early career researchers are saying an emotional goodbye to Aeolus ahead of its upcoming reentry.

Since 2017, the pioneering satellite has helped a growing community of budding scientists achieve ambitious research objectives and, thanks to the ongoing improvement and dissemination of Aeolus data, this is set to continue long after the mission comes to an end.

As the mission edges back towards the planet, Earth Online is taking the opportunity to revisit some inspiring examples of how Aeolus shaped novel investigations into the atmosphere – and the careers of the researchers who completed them.

Students build confidence in Aeolus data

Key to the success of Aeolus is a well-coordinated validation and calibration strategy that ensures the delivery of high-quality data to the community.

An important part of these activities, the Joint Aeolus Tropical Atlantic Campaign (JATAC) – which took place in Cabo Verde and the US Virgin Islands in 2021 and 2022 – was supported by a number of scientists in the early stages of their careers.

 Lidar system deployed as part of JATAC
Lidar system deployed as part of JATAC

Ioanna Tsikoudi, a PhD student based at the National Observatory of Athens, participated in the ASKOS element of JATAC, which provided in-situ airborne dust observations over Cabo Verde.

In addition, Aeolus data were instrumental in Tsikoudi's research into the planetary boundary layer, which she has presented on at several international conferences.

Tsikoudi says, "Overall, Aeolus paved the way for me to meet great researchers, use valuable data for my studies, find new collaborations and of course travel to Cabo Verde and Rhodes, chasing wind and dust stories.

"So long Aeolus – and thank you for the wonderful experiences."

Peristera Paschou, a PhD student also based at the National Observatory of Athens, worked on a novel lidar system that was deployed as part of ASKOS.

She says, "My trip to Cabo Verde belongs in the highlights of my career, giving me the opportunity to collaborate with top-level scientists and solve challenges in the field. This greatly benefited my studies by providing me with constructive feedback on my early results as a PhD student.

"Following the campaign, I had the opportunity to attend conferences to present my findings, which further enhanced my career and research into the validation of Aeolus products."

Boosting weather prediction in Japan

Tropical cyclones pose a significant threat to people's safety and key economic activities in Japan, so improving projections of these weather systems is an important area of focus for the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

Izumi Okabe began her career as a scientist at JMA's Meteorological Research Institute three years ago and has risen quickly to the position of senior researcher.

Building on previous improvements of weather prediction models using Aeolus, Okabe led a recent study to assess the impact of the mission's data on tropical cyclone projections.

She says, "The results clearly underscored the importance of Aeolus data, giving me the opportunity to travel to numerous workshops to present our findings, gain valuable insights, and connect with like-minded researchers. These experiences were very valuable and, thanks to the research using Aeolus data, I was promoted to senior researcher at the Meteorological Research Institute.

"As the mission's reentry approaches, I sincerely appreciate Aeolus for providing such substantial benefits to my professional growth."

Investigating atmosphere dynamics

Mathieu Ratynski
Mathieu Ratynski delivers presentation on his Aeolus data work

Mathieu Ratynski, a scientist at France's laboratory of atmosphere, environment and space observations (LATMOS), is using Aeolus data to investigate gravity wave phenomena and wind profiling.

He recently published research focusing on the validation of Aeolus data and is currently working on a paper investigating convection-induced gravity waves in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.

Ratynski says, "Aeolus has played a crucial role in shaping my career, providing unique data that have driven my research and enhanced our understanding of Earth's atmosphere – particularly in wind profiling and gravity wave phenomena.

"This work has been integral to my research journey, and the skills I have gained position me well for opportunities such as a postdoctoral position abroad."

Supporting the future safety of aviation

Anna Kampouri presents on the impact of measured wind fields
Anna Kampouri presents on the impact of measured wind fields

Aeolus data have enabled several unforeseen applications – and, this year, a paper was published in Nature that demonstrated how the mission could improve aviation safety by tracking volcanic plumes that impact the performance of jet engines.

One of the study's co-authors, Anna Kampouri, is currently a PhD student at the National Observatory of Athens. Her research focuses on volcanic ash dispersion modelling.

Building on the success of the Nature paper, she has been further investigating the impact of Aeolus data on simulations of the transport, extent and distribution of volcanic ash particles. She expects to publish a follow-up study in the coming months.

Kampouri says, "Aeolus wind assimilation has yielded remarkable improvements on aerosol modelling. Working with Aeolus data had a great impact on my studies, allowing me to expand my network of collaborators and travel to many conferences to discuss my results.

"Goodbye Aeolus – thank you for improving volcanic ash forecast modelling and contributing to the future safety of aviation."



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