Paul Counet is Head of Strategy and International Relations for the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).

EUMETSAT is the European operational satellite agency for monitoring weather, climate and the environment. It operates a system of meteorological satellites monitoring the atmosphere and ocean and land surfaces which deliver weather and climate-related satellite data, images and products – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. EUMETSAT was founded in 1986.

EUMETSAT is one of the newer members of the IAF. How important is international cooperation to EUMETSAT?

You could say that international cooperation is one part of our core business. The meteorological community is structured on a global level - weather, operation and climate data is shared - and EUMETSAT is the European contribution to a global observation system coordinated under WMO recommendations. EUMETSAT provides information to the national meteorological services of our 24 Member and six Cooperating States in Europe, as well as other users worldwide. Outside Europe, EUMETSAT has agreements with national meteorological services or agencies in the United States, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, India and Russia. EUMETSAT also serves as the Secretariat of the Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites (CGMS). CGMS started in 1972 when meteorologists from around the world met in Washington to discuss questions of compatibility among geostationary meteorological satellites. Nowadays, CGMS provides an international forum for the exchange of technical information on geostationary and polar orbiting meteorological satellite systems. China, having developed both polar-orbiting and geostationary meteorological satellites (the FY1 and FY2 series) has joined CGMS. We developed EPS - Europe’s first polar orbiting operational meteorological satellite system. This is our contribution to the joint European-US IJPS system. Sharing instruments and orbits with our American counterparts, EUMETSAT has the operational responsibility for the "morning orbit" with our Metop satellites. Planning is ongoing for the definition of Post-EPS, (the follow-on of EPS), that will provide continuity of observations and respond to the needs of the users from around the year 2020. We also have a very specific cooperation with Africa. EUMETSAT and the EU commission are coordinating a network of receiving stations on the continent. Airports for instance will be able to use the data free of charge. 80% of Africa is viewed by EUMETSAT satellites.

EUMETSAT is one of the main actors in the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) initiative. What is GMES and what is EUMETSAT 's role?

GMES is a European initiative for the implementation of information services dealing with environment and security. It is an effort to bring data and information providers together with users. GMES encompasses areas in which EUMETSAT has a clear mandate: weather, climate and the environment. As the organisation responsible for developing and operating Europe’s operational meteorological satellites, EUMETSAT has the infrastructure, services and expertise required to contribute to the GMES network and operate its ground systems, satellites and future missions. EUMETSAT maintains close links with the GMES Bureau responsible for coordinating GMES activities. Furthermore, EUMETSAT coordinates its climate activities through the framework of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). CEOS was started by the G8 group of nations and is an international coordinating mechanism involved in the management of international civil space-borne missions designed to observe and study Earth. EUMETSAT has been a member of CEOS since 1989 and is leading CEOS activities mainly in the field of the Constellation discussions on Ocean Surface Topography and Atmospheric Monitoring - the focus here is on sea-surface winds and temperatures. This type of coordination is something already developed for the meteorological community as part of CGMS. CEOS is a good way of promoting the role of satellite agency cooperation.

The IAF is organising various events in 2009 dedicated to managing the effect of climate change. How does Earth Observation help us monitor global warming?

Earth observation data from space plays a crucial role in understanding the current state of the climate and how it may evolve. Operational satellite agencies, with their mandate to provide continuous and reliable measurements over long periods of time, are uniquely placed to provide such information. By the 2030s, with the first data from Meteosat dating from 1972, there will be 60 years of observational data from Europe. We have 37 years of fully inter-calibrated data and a new programme is in place to secure long term data/monitoring and cooperation until 2035. EUMETSAT itself possesses a unique archive of relevant long-term satellite data dating back to 1981, the year the second Meteosat weather satellite was launched. But having said all this, as with NOAA in the United States, EUMETSAT observes rather than analyses or comments - we leave that important task for others. No individual organisation or country has the capability and resources to fully respond to the challenges of climate changes independently. So there is the need for global information on the key indicators of climate change. We have to continue to harmonise and integrate the various observing systems in order to provide the required consistent information.