Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellite in orbit

What has Meteosat-8 seen in 20 years?


Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellite in orbit
Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellite in orbit

As Meteosat-8 heads into retirement, we take a look back at some memorable moments captured by the first Meteosat Second Generation satellite.

Last Updated

05 May 2023

Published on

30 June 2022

New RGB products

The arrival of the new Meteosat Second Generation satellite, Meteosat-8, heralded a new range of RGBs from a geostationary orbit. Prior to Meteosat-8, RGBs had only come from older instruments, such as MODIS and AVHRR.

Below are some early case studies using Meteosat-8 RGBs.

Snow over the Alps and Central Europe

One of the first weather events monitored by Meteosat-8 was the cold and snowy February in 2003.

After several days of snowfall at the beginning of the month, a persistent high pressure system resulted in cold and very dry weather conditions over Central Europe for about three weeks. Large parts of Europe were snow covered, which could be seen in Meteosat-8 images from the end of the month (Figure 1 and 2).

Meteosat-8 HRV, 24 February, 11:45 UTC
Figure 1: Meteosat-8 High Resolution Visible (HRV), 24 February, 11:45 UTC
Meteosat-8 RGB Composite VIS0.8, NIR1.6, IR3.9r, 24 February, 11:00 UTC
Figure 2: Meteosat-8 RGB Composite VIS0.8, NIR1.6, IR3.9r, 24 February, 11:00 UTC

See the case Snow over the Alps and Central Europe

Night-time fog and fire monitoring in South Africa

In July 2003 Meteosat-8 satellite imagery helped improve forecasting of fog by the South African Weather Service. South Africa's largest international airport (Johannesburg International Airport) frequently experiences delays in flights due to the reduction in visibility caused by fog.

The RGB IR12.0–IR10.8, IR10.8–IR3.9, IR10.8 loop (Figure 3) provided an excellent means of indicating low stratus cloud, or fog, at night which appears bright green in this colour composite. This is a result of the emissivity of water clouds in IR3.9 being much lower than in IR10.8.

Met-8, 05 July 2003, 02:30 UTC
Figure 3: Meteosat-8 RGB Composite IR12.0–IR10.8, IR10.8–IR3.9, IR10.8, 5 July, 02:30 UTC

See the case Night-time fog and fire monitoring in South Africa

Catastrophic fires over Portugal and Spain

In the beginning of August 2003, in conjunction with the heatwave over Western and Central Europe, Portugal was hit by the most devastating forest fire in a century.

Meteosat-8, with its channels in the visible and near infrared range, provided near-real time information about the location of the fires and the extent of the smoke plumes.

Catastrophic fires over Portugal and Spain
Figure 4: Meteosat-8 Channel 04 (IR3.9), 3 August, 12:00 UTC

Sahara dust outbreak across the Atlantic

In early 2004, Meteosat-8 tracked a massive storm which formed a huge arc of thick dust that swept over the Canary Islands for a number of days, dropping a significant amount of dust.

Sahara dust outbreak across the Atlantic
Figure 5:  Meteosat-8 RGB Composite, 3 March 2004, 12:00 UTC

See the case Sahara dust outbreak across the Atlantic

Meteosat-8's tenth anniversary

By 2012 all these new images were the norm and we celebrated 10 years of MSG with this special case study: Ten years of Meteosat Second Generation.

Meteosat First Generation v Meteosat Second Generation

Although data from Meteosat First Generation (MFG) satellites was extremely useful, Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) offered much more — higher resolution and more information on the cloud structure and constitution – which meant forecasters had more information on the dynamics of the storms and how they will evolve.

Meteosat-6 (MFG) — Severe storms in Central Europe

On 18 May 2002, a short-wave trough approached Germany from the west. The associated cold front extended from the UK to Switzerland.

Severe storms in Central Europe
Figure 6: Meteosat-6 visible channel, 18 May, 16:20 UTC

See the case Severe storms in Central Europe

Met-8 RGB Composite, 20 May, 13:30 UTC
Figure 7: Meteosat-8 RGB Composite WV6.2–WV7.3, IR3.9–IR10.8, NIR1.6–VIS0.6, 20 May, 13:30 UTC

Severe convection over north west Italy

On 20 May 2003, Meteosat-8 observed rapidly growing convective storms over north west Italy.

This was best observed in the channel 04 (IR3.9) minus channel 09 (IR10.8) brightness temperature difference image, which indicates very large positive values for very cold clouds with small ice particles.

See the case Severe convection over north west Italy


Meteosat-5 (MFG) — Tropical cyclone Hary skirts Madagascar's coast

Tropical Cyclone Hary seen by Meteosat-5 over the Indian Ocean on 8 March 2002.

Tropical cyclone Hary skirting Madagascar's east coast
Figure 8: Meteosat-5 Visible, 8 March 12:00 UTC. Source: CIMSS.

See the case Tropical cyclone Hary skirts Madagascar's coast

Meteosat-8 (MSG) — Tropical storm and convection over Madagascar and Mozambique

Tropical storm over Madagascar and severe convection over Mozambique (MSG rapid scans with three-minute repeat cycle) on 15 December 2003.

Figure 9: Meteosat-8 RGB Composite VIS0.8, IR3.9r, IR10.8, zoomed 15 December, 10:38–13:59 UTC

See the case Tropical storm & convection over Madagascar & Mozambique

Meteosat-8 RSS service

In May 2008 Meteosat-8 started providing the rapid scanning service (RSS).

Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud seen in Meteosat-8 RSS

When the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland erupted in 2010, satellite imagery proved to be instrumental in helping track the movement of the large ash plume.

Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud seen in Met-8 RSS
Figure 10: Meteosat-8 IR12.0–IR10.8, IR10.8–IR8.7, IR10.8, 10 May 2010 12:00 UTC

See the case Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption

Thunderstorms with above-anvil plumes over Italy

Two thunderstorm clouds with above-anvil plumes were observed in satellite imagery over northern Italy in the morning and afternoon of 6 July 2010. The development of the convective clouds on the Meteosat-8 rapid scan (five-min) imagery.

Thunderstorms with above-anvil plumes over Italy
Figure 11: Meteosat-8 HRV, 6 July, 03:55–08:00 UTC

See case Thunderstorms with above-anvil plumes over Italy

Meteosat-8 IODC service

In February 2017, Meteosat-8 replaced Meteosat-7 as the Indian Ocean Data Coverage (IODC) Service, the first time SEVIRI had covered the Indian Ocean.

Tropical cyclones Gulab and Shaheen

Meteosat-8 was used to look at the lifecycle of tropical cyclones Gulab and Shaheen between Bay of Bengal and north Oman in September/October 2021.

Figure 12: Meteosat-8 Airmass RGB, 24 September 12:00 UTC-5 October 12:00 UTC

See case Tropical cyclones Gulab and Shaheen

Major dust outbreaks - Africa, Middle East & China

Meteosat-8 was well positioned to observe dust storms over the Sahara, the Arabian desert, and the Gobi desert in March 2021.

Met-8 Dust RGB 13 March 2021
Figure 13: Meteosat-8 Dust RGB, 13 March 2021 08:00 UTC

See case Major dust outbreaks - Africa, Middle East & China

And finally...

Here are just a couple of the more unusual phenomena that Meteosat-8 has captured.

Meteosat views of Venus

Meteosat-8 took a closer look at the planet Venus when it was partially illuminated by the Sun, in early July.

 Met-8, 10 July 2005, 02:00 UTC
Figure 14: Meteosat-8 HRV (processed), 10 July 2005, 02:00 UTC

See case Meteosat views of Venus

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai major eruptions

In the Meteosat-8 animation, from 15 January 2022 12:00 UTC to 16 January 11:30 UTC (15-minute time-steps), thanks to the eastern satellite position, the shock wave from the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha-apai volcano can be very clearly seen travelling from west Australia over the Indian Ocean, and from the south after passing over Antarctica.

Figure 15: Meteosat-8 IODC (centred to 41.5˚ E), IR6.2 brightness temperature differences between successive images*, 15 January 12:00 UTC to 16 January 11:30 UTC

See the case Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai major eruptions

Working with Meteosat-8

The majority of cases on the website have been written by EUMETSAT trainers. They use satellite data on a daily basis to help train others in the best way to exploit it. Retired trainers Jose Prieto and HansPeter Roesli were among the first to use Meteosat-8 data, here they discuss how they worked with the new generation of data.

Jose Prieto

"The second generation of Meteosat supplied colour to the satellite meteorology. With much better resolution than its predecessor, Meteosat-8 produced imagery in 12 channels, compared with just three of the previous generation. This technical step in spectral resolution gave way to colour in the products, in particular through RGB composites, which merge three different grey images in a coloured result.

"RGB images are not just a combination of three wavelengths. Because channels are roughly similar to each other, in particular when in the same spectral region, it is more efficient to use channel differences in the RGB choice, better than individual channels. A well-known result of this technique is the Airmass RGB, which signals Meteosat-8's ability to identify humid or ascent areas in the middle troposphere. The Dust RGB, based on the infrared window channels, depicts areas of dry aerosol in the low atmosphere, also when it travels through the Atlantic towards the Caribbean, as many of our cases studies illustrate.

"Whether meteorite debris, sonic waves created by big eruptions, pollen clouds, volcanic ash, or severe convection signs in the upper cloud, imagery from Meteosat-8 has deeply changed our understanding of meteorology and the delicate balance in the atmosphere, the Earth skin.

"Another novel aspect of Meteosat-8 was the possibility for thousands of amateurs and institutes not precisely of meteorological nature, of receiving the data via simple receivers and manageable antennas. This unforeseen development caused an unusual interest in Meteosat imagery, not just for weather applications, but also for the soil monitoring, ocean surface monitoring, and even chemistry, in particular in Brazil. Even if the field of view of a geostationary satellite is given by the nominal location of the satellite in the equatorial ring, users learnt that the actual limits of Meteosat on the western edge reached the Pacific waters off the coast of Chile and allowed for observations of volcanic eruptions in the Andes, at a time when the current generation of GOES was still under preparation."

HansPeter Roesli

"The multispectral coverage from the IODC position over the southern tip of Somalia benefited a region from east Africa/Europe to the longitude of the Bay of Bengal, including the Arabian and Indian subcontinents, as well as the whole Indian Ocean. This allowed for the investigation of phenomena that earlier on were marginally covered by the SEVIRI mission at 0° longitude(the coverage from 0° does not reach beyond the longitude from the Persian/Arabian Gulf to Madagascar). Thus, Meteosat-8 at the IODC position spawned numerous case studies and discussions using SEVIRI-based RGBs and the HRV band."

The Natural Colour RGB of Indian smog fanning out on both sides of the subcontinent (Figure 16), illustrates how far east the Indian Ocean Data Coverage (IODC) reaches.

Meteosat-8 Natural Colour RGB
Figure 16: Meteosat-8 Natural Colour RGB, 10 December 2020 03:00 UTC

As well as those mentioned above, phenomena HansPeter has seen includes a mud volcano buried in the Caspian Sea ejected a dirty plume as shown in heavily zoomed NIR image (Figure 17).

Mud volcano in Meteosat-8 NIR
Figure 17: Meteosat-8 near infrared, 4 July 2021, 17:45 UTC

Additional content

Using RGBs in operational meteorology
The MSG Interpretation Guide helped users go from user move from using first generation data to second generation data.
WMO-EUMETSAT Workshop on RGB Satellite Products: Standards, Applications and Opportunities