Not sure when to hold your summer barbeque? A new weather instrument may hold the key.
02 Oct 2020



Tom Lacey, Business Development Manager for Space Exploration, Remote Sensing Instrumentation and Data Curation shares how new technology currently being developed at RAL Space promises to add valuable data to weather forecasting.


​​​​​Satellite image showing clouds approaching the British Isles


I’ve been relying on my weather app during lock down to help plan socially distanced picnics and BBQs. But, as the rain sets in, I always begin to suspect that something must be missing from weather forecasts.

There have been huge advances in both ground-based and orbiting remote sensing satellites, together with the incredible developments in computing power, which have helped meteorologists to progress their understanding of the dynamics of the atmosphere, and consequently improve their forecasting abilities, down at a local level. Meteorologists use numerical weather prediction (NWP) models to forecast weather. The more current and accurate the information fed into these models, the better the forecast will be. However, currently, there is a gap in the capability of the observing system to measure temperature above 40 km, and this influences NWP prediction at lower altitudes.

Meteorological scientists and atmospheric experts emphatically agree that data derived from atmospheric sounding represents the lifeblood of weather forecasting: atmospheric sounding is a measurement of vertical distribution of physical properties of the atmospheric column including pressure, temperature, wind and water content.

Hyperspectral Microwave Sounding (HYMS) is an innovative, next generation, passive, remote sensing technology. This disruptive technology will help address the lack of measurements above 40 km and deliver improved climate modelling and weather prediction through the application of detailed spectral profiling. RAL Space is working to bring this technology into the mainstream so that it can be an active and integral part of our everyday weather forecasting systems.

RAL Space’s HYMS satellite instrument is the precursor to a new range of market-leading microwave remote sounders designed for space and aerospace use, and has been designed with a number of advantages in mind for satellite manufacturers and for weather forecasters.

The HYMS instrument leans on MetOp-SG design for space heritage, but challenges the design rules concerning instrument footprint, mass and power budget as part of a strategic miniaturisation programme while incorporating space-grade components, to ease integration into nanosatellites; promising high temporal/vertical resolution data acquisition through the deployment of a LEO constellation of nanosatellites.

HYMS will provide core measurements for advanced numerical weather prediction through atmospheric temperature profiling by dense sampling oxygen spectral lines at 60 GHz. Early Lab prototyping of the HYMS instrument have already demonstrated ultra-high radiometric accuracy(<0.4K) and spectral resolution (~1 MHz).

While the primary sector to benefit from this new disruptive technology is public weather services, helping me plan my next summer barbeque, other downstream sectors will benefit from more accurate local forecasts. As well as transport, insurance-weather damage claims, agriculture/agritech, disaster management, defence and security and even renewable energy which through improved knowledge of local weather, can improved energy generation forecast services.

Please do get in touch to find out more about the HYMS instrument and the test campaign which will take place aboard the FAAM aircraft by the end of 2020.

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries​​