LONDON-Europe’s novel wind-measuring satellite, Aeolus, has reached a key milestone in its mission.

The space laser’s data is now being used in operational weather forecasts.

Aeolus monitors the wind by firing an ultraviolet beam down into the atmosphere and catching the light’s reflection as it scatters off molecules and particles carried along in the air. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts says the information is now robust enough for routine use.

The Reading, UK-based organisation is ingesting the data into its numerical models that look from one to several days ahead.

Forecast improvements are most apparent for the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere.

Meteorologists are constantly trying to increase their skill level; they want to see a certain performance being achieved further and further into the future.

And on one important measure - the eight-day look-ahead - the ECMWF says the Aeolus data enables conditions in the Southern Hemisphere to be forecast with the same level of accuracy an additional 3.7 hours into the future.

The UK Met Office is likely to start ingesting Aeolus data routinely into its forecast models from the Summer. Meteo France and DWD (Germany) are expected to follow too. The Americans have also been running simulations to assess the benefits, and the Japanese are about to start. The Chinese have investigated the quality of the data through comparison with other satellite wind observations. The European Space Agency’s Aeolus satellite is regarded as a breakthrough concept.