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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

21 May 2003

Support for Ailing Weather Satellite


On 22 May at 10am Eastern Standard Time, a United States' environmental satellite will officially commence provision of backup support for an elderly and now ailing Japanese weather satellite that currently provides important weather forecasting information for Australia. The satellite was to be replaced some years ago, but unfortunately, its replacement was destroyed during launching.

Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology today announced that the USA's GOES-9 (Geostationary Operational Environment Satellite-9) weather satellite would now provide backup support to the Japanese GMS (Geostationary Meteorological Satellite) satellite. During the back-up operation, GOES-9 will be stationed above the equator, over the ocean north of Bougainville.

"The Japanese satellite has done an excellent job, but is already three years beyond its design life. Recently it has been experiencing some technical difficulties with some image loss in the extreme south of the hemisphere. To ensure access to reliable information, it was important that Australia and other countries in the Western Pacific find an alternative source of satellite data."

The USA GOES-9 satellite will provide backup data until the Japanese replacement satellite is expected to be operational in mid 2004.

Japan has built, maintained and operated the GMS series of satellites for over 25 years. Their weather satellite coverage over the Asia-Pacific region makes a major contribution to the space-based component of the World Meteorological Organization's Global Observing System. This service is provided free to many other nations.

"Satellites have led to dramatic advances in the accuracy of forecasts and warnings in the region, especially in Australia. The Japanese are to be congratulated on their extraordinary efforts," Dr Stone said. Australia has assisted with the operation of the now elderly Japanese satellite with a geo-positioning station on the Mornington Peninsula. This helped to keep the satellite in the same location relative to the earth.

"Australia is grateful to both Japan and the USA for their cooperative arrangements to maintain weather satellite coverage over the Asia-Pacific region".

The Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology will receive GOES-9 backup data in Melbourne and will make it available to local and international users directly and through the Bureau website www.bom.gov.au.

Contact:
Ms Anna Hughes, Dr Stone's Office, 0408 697 055
Dr Bill Downey, Bureau of Meteorology, 03 9669 4371

Commonwealth of Australia