On Monday, the Czech Republic became a Cooperating State of EUMETSAT. This is a Europe-wide organisation, based in Germany, operating several weather satellites which gather long term measurements from space. They provide data to weather forecasters but also monitor pollution and gather data for climate change studies. EUMETSAT has 18 member states and eight cooperating states, the Czech Republic now being one of them. Tillman Mohr is the general director of EUMETSAT.
"The interest is really to get all European countries as member states. And we have started in round about 1996 to have discussions with our Central and Eastern European neighbours to develop a legal instrument which we call a Cooperating State Agreement. The very first country who signed the Cooperating State Agreement was the Slovak Republic. So your brothers were a little bit earlier and faster."
The organisation which will benefit most from the data, products and services provided by EUMETSAT is the Czech Meteorological Office, responsible for most weather forecasts in the Czech Republic. I asked its head, Ivan Obrusnik, what cooperation with EUMETSAT meant for his office.
"It means an improved access to the data which are produced by EUMETSAT satellites. The images we see on TV are a very small part of the data which are available from EUMETSAT satellites. Meteorologists nowadays cannot avoid using data from satellites because data from the surface apply only to lower layers of the atmosphere but we also need to know the data about the atmosphere from at least 30 kilometres above the surface."
The Czech Republic will now be able to take data from EUMETSAT but is the Czech Republic going to provide any data to EUMETSAT in return?
"No, in this case this is practically one way. I mean, we can cooperate with EUMETSAT by sending our specialists there and to work on some specific problems but otherwise the data flow is from EUMETSAT to the users."
What does it mean for the common citizen? Will weather forecasts be more accurate?
"Yes, we have been improving weather forecasts step by step every year but it is a slow process. To tell you the truth, satellite data is only a small part of the whole problem but generally, it is viewed that especially for numerical weather models which are used for forecasting for, let's say, a couple of hours to ten days, this means a big improvement. At the same time we can limit a little bit our surface observations which we do and which are very expensive, and use satellites instead of that. And I think that in this case it is very economical."
The other cooperating states, among them Hungary, Croatia, the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro and Romania will all eventually become full members of EUMETSAT. The Czech Republic is expected to acquire a full member status by 2009.
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