Professor Kobus Botha talks about how he uses satellite data.
05, November 2020
As a farmer and professor in agriculture in Pretoria, South Africa, weather was always of importance to Kobus Botha.
But it wasn’t until his retirement that his interest in meteorology grew to become an all encompassing way of life.
Nineteen years ago, a chance conversation with a fellow radio ham set Kobus on a path that led to him building his own satellite dish and setting up his own website.
Most of the satellite imagery on his website, Kobus Botha Weather Satellite Photos of Southern Africa, comes to him via EUMETSAT’s EUMETCast system.
The EUMETSAT data Kobus displays, such as the three-hourly imagery over Africa, are used in accordance with the EUMETSAT Data Policy.
Kobus explains how it all started: “I am a radio ham and during a discussion someone asked if I knew that it was now possible to get satellite images. I investigated, but at that time, 19 years ago, it wasn’t possible to get the dishes in South Africa or even exported from Australia. So I decided to build one myself.”
After 13 months of studying in the library and importing a lot of hardware and software from abroad, Kobus built his own stressed parabolic dish.
“There was an analogue signal there straight away. The image wasn’t very good, but it was wonderful to see. Soon my radio ham club asked if I could get images of Africa.”
The interest from others prompted Kobus to start investigating how to access Meteosat First Generation data.
“The help I got from people at EUMETSAT was invaluable. There was no way I could have done it without it.”
Seven years ago a friend suggested Kobus set up a website to help share satellite imagery with others. Those first two images had to be manually edited before Kobus, who is also a keen photographer, could publish them.
“Gradually more people started to see the imagery and about five years ago I started to produce imagery for all parts of Africa.”
Kobus now has three satellite dishes in his backyard and spends his time running his website and acting as a consultant on the C Band.
Kobus is now looking forward to seeing the new data to come from Meteosat Third Generation.
“I am the type of person who, when there is something new, I must know about it!”
Kobus is proud of his achievements over the last two decades: “Last year the website had 39 million hits and I’m also on Facebook. What started as a hobby has now become a full-time occupation.”
However, he has words of caution for new users: “You have to be dedicated and enthusiastic. This is very complex and high tech hobby. You can’t just get a computer and a dish and expect images to appear.
“You need to take time to study it. It takes time, energy and enthusiasm, but if you have those you will get a return on your investment.”
During a visit to EUMETSAT’s headquarters Kobus gathered numerous ideas on how to present satellite data in different ways, including changing the colour of the sea.
“Visiting EUMETSAT has been very educational. The dedication from everyone at EUMETSAT, especially the engineers and the ladies of the helpdesk, has made an enormous contribution to my work. It is very important for me to be in contact with the experts."
He added: “Also EUMETSAT users are a real community and always happy to help and share their knowledge, especially people like David Taylor. It’s important to be part of that community and to have membership of groups like the Group for Earth Observation.
“Doing this brings me joy and it is a legacy my children will inherit. They are interested in satellite imagery and will continue my work of sharing this imagery, particularly with the people of Africa.”