Ongoing research project |
2008 - 2017

Aeolus is a European Space Agency (ESA) Earth Explorer mission, scheduled to be launched in late 2017 as part of the Living Planet Programme.

The mission is intended to have a lifetime of three years. The Earth Explorers are designed to address critical and specific issues that are raised by the science community, while at the same time demonstrating breakthrough technology in observing techniques.

Aeolus will demonstrate the capability of a spaceborne Doppler wind lidar to make accurate, globally-distributed measurements (polar orbit) of vertical wind profiles in the troposphere and lower stratosphere (near surface to 30 km). It will measure single horizontal line-of-sight (HLOS) winds, perpendicular to the satellite track, by aiming an ultraviolet (UV) laser into the atmosphere and then detecting the Doppler-shift of the backscattered light from both molecules (clear air) and particles (clouds/aerosols). ADM-Aeolus is seen as a pre-operational mission, demonstrating new laser technology and paving the way for future meteorological satellites to measure atmospheric winds.

The Aeolus mission has suffered severe delays due to problems encountered with the state-of-the-art UV laser technology. There are still some significant instrument tests to be passed before we can be confident of the suggested launch date.

Further details on the mission can be found from the ADM-Aeolus Science Report (2008) and from Stoffelen et al. (2005).

Role of ECMWF

ECMWF is contracted by ESA to produce Aeolus wind products suitable for NWP. In particular, ECMWF is responsible for the development of the wind retrieval software through collaboration with KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute), Météo-France and DLR (German Aerospace Centre) – see Tan et al. (2008). ECMWF has been chosen as the Meteorological Processing Facility so it will provide wind products (referred to as Level-2B wind products) and auxiliary meteorological data products for ESA in an operational manner during the mission’s lifetime.

ECMWF will also be responsible for the monitoring of Aeolus wind retrievals, and will assess the impact of Aeolus winds on the global NWP system. The intention is to assimilate HLOS winds operationally if they are shown to provide positive impact. ECMWF will also participate in readiness tests, calibration/validation activities and the mission’s commissioning phase.

The Aeolus processing software along with detailed documentation is made available for NWP centres from the website: .

It is expected that an increase in wind profile information will be a valuable addition to the global observing system, as was again recently identified by a WMO expert team (Andersson & Sato, 2012). If Aeolus observations are of sufficient quality, they are expected to provide a significant positive impact on global NWP. Therefore, ECMWF has been separately contracted to investigate the expected impact of Aeolus data given some significant changes to the mission design over recent years.

See the ESA's project page




Michael Rennie

Lars Isaksen

European Space Agency