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ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite uses its Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer to observe the energy radiating from the Earth’s surface over nine spectral bands and two viewing angles. On 17 October, ESA published an observational photo made by Sentinel-3A of the temperature at the top of Hurricane Ophelia on 15 October. Since downgraded from a hurricane to a storm, it’s structure can still be observed.

Hurricane Ophelia

The clouds at the top of the storm, which are some 12-15 km above sea level, range in brightness temperature from around -50°C at the eye of the storm, to about 15°C at the edges.

One of the forces of nature capable of being tracked, satellites provide up-to-date information on a storm’s extent, wind speed and path, as well as key features such as cloud thickness, temperature, and water and ice content. This allows precautionary measures to be taken.

Hurrican Ophelia on 12 October

Copernicus Sentinel-3A was launched in February 2016, and will be followed by Copernicus Sentinel-3B somewhere this year, according to the original planning. It is expected to remain operational for seven years. Developed by ESA and built by Thales Alenia Space France, Selex ES Italy and EADS-CASA in Spain, it is jointly operated by ESA and Eumetsat. Its tasks include sea-level change and sea-surface temperature mapping, water quality management, sea-ice extent and thickness mapping and wildfire detection. Scientific data is transmitted to core Sentinel ground stations, while it sends and receives telemetry data from Kiruna in Sweden.

Sentinel-3A