Two generations of active Meteosat satellites, Meteosat First Generation (MFG) and Meteosat Second Generation (MSG), providing images of the full Earth disc, and data for weather forecasts.

Today, weather satellites scan the whole Earth, meaning not a single tropical storm or severe weather system goes undetected. The early detection and warnings they provide have saved thousands of lives.

Meteosat data is of unique value to nowcasting of high impact weather in support of safety of life and property.

It has been shown to improve weather forecasts and severe weather warnings which, in turn helps limit damage to property and benefits industry e.g. transport, agriculture and energy.


Current Meteosat Satellites
Satellite Lifetime Position Services
Meteosat-10 (MSG) 05/07/2012 – Nominal fuel lifetime is until 2022 0°/36,000 km 0º SEVIRI Image Data. Real-time Imagery
Meteosat-9 (MSG) 22/12/2005 – Fuel lifetime is expected to be extended until 2021 9.5° E/36,000 km Rapid Scan Service from 9 April 2013. Real-time Imagery
Meteosat-8 (MSG) 28/08/2002 – Fuel lifetime is expected to be extended until 2019 3.5° E/36,000 km Backup service for 0°, plus RSS from 9 April 2013
Meteosat-7 (MFG) 02/09/1997 (IODC since 01/11/2006) – 2016 57° E/36,000 km Indian Ocean Coverage. Real-time Imagery

Meteosat — providing a vital service

In geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the equator, the Meteosat satellites — Meteosat-7, -8, -9 and -10 — operate over Europe and Africa.

Meteosat-10 (launched from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou in 2012) is the prime operational geostationary satellite, positioned at 0 degrees and providing full disc imagery every 15 minutes.

Meteosat-9 (launched on 2005) provides the Rapid Scanning Service, delivering more frequent images every five minutes over parts of Europe, Africa and adjacent seas.

Meteosat-8 (launched in 2002) serves as a back up to both spacecraft. Meteosat-7 (launched in 1997) is the last of the first generation of Meteosat satellites and operates over the Indian Ocean, filling a data gap over the region until it is de-orbited in 2017.

MSG-4 is due to be launched on 2 July 2015 and will be stored in orbit, until required.

These services are vital to ensure the safety of lives, property and infrastructure, particularly in situations of severe weather.

Each Meteosat satellite is expected to remain in orbit, in an operable condition for at least seven years. The current policy is to keep two operable satellites in orbit and to launch a new satellite close to the date when the fuel in the elder of the two starts to run out. After the end of the MSG lifetime there will be a follow-on series — Meteosat Third Generation.

The MSG satellites carry a pair of instruments — the Spinning Enhanced Visible and InfraRed Imager (SEVIRI), which observes the Earth in 12 spectral channels and the Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget (GERB) instrument, a visible-infrared radiometer for Earth radiation budget studies.

The satellites continually return detailed imagery of Europe, the North Atlantic and Africa every 15 minutes, for operational use by meteorologists.

Meteosat Second Generation applications

Nowcasting and very short range forecasting

The primary role of the Meteosat satellites is to help detect and forecast rapidly developing high impact weather, such as thunderstorms or fog, up to six hours ahead.

Nowcasting and very short range forecasts — up to six hours — are vital for the safety of life, property and infrastructure and rely on very frequent, detailed images of the atmosphere.

The data provided by MSG’s SEVIRI instrument supports a large range of nowcasting applications:


  • Detailed monitoring of convection, which can lead to the development of severe thunderstorms.
  • The detection of fog, dust storms or ash.
  • The assessment of air mass characteristics.

Meteosat imagery is also used by weather forecasters to cross-check that weather prediction model output is in line with what is actually happening in the atmosphere, and to adjust their very short-range forecasts accordingly.

Convective storm

Severe convective storms, or thunderstorms, are usually accompanied by strong winds and heavy rainfall and, sometimes, by hail. They can be a serious threat to life and property in Europe and Africa.

MSG allows the continuous monitoring of all stages of convection, ranging from the initial instability in the atmosphere, indicating the possibility of convection, to the development and properties of mature thunderstorms.

The rapid 15 minute, or even five minute, image updates from Meteosat satellites are an important tool for meteorologists to monitor the often rapid development of convective storms and help them issue timely warnings.

Volcanic ash

The ability of Meteosat satellites to monitor volcanic ash clouds is important for air traffic management. While the impacts of volcanic emissions on aircraft are still not fully resolved and currently under investigation, there have been incidence when planes’ engines have stopped working after travelling through volcanic clouds.

Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellites can detect ash in the atmosphere. Because of this capability, MSG satellites are the primary satellites used for monitoring volcanic ash plumes by the London and Toulouse Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres (VAAC). The VAACs, operated by the Met Office and Météo-France, are responsible for advisory warnings of volcanic ash in different parts of Europe’s air space.

During the eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull and Grímsvötn volcanoes, MSG played a vital role following in near-real time the movement and dispersion of the ash plumes.

With new algorithms, data from SEVIRI will soon allow the retrieval of information on the height of the ash plume, the total column loading of ash and the effective radius of the ash particles in cloud-free areas or above cloud.


Meteosat imagery allows 24-hour monitoring of the distribution and behaviour of fog. It is used, in combination with other techniques, to help detect and monitor fog formation and nowcast its dissipation.

This information is particularly important in sensitive localised areas such as around airports, major road networks, and shipping routes and ports.

Programme overview

Graphical chart showing EUMETSAT/ESA cooperation

The MSG system is established under cooperation between EUMETSAT and the European Space Agency, to ensure the continuity of meteorological observations from geostationary orbit, following on from Meteosat First Generation.