A new instrument that measures the Earth’s radiation balance, the energy source that drives our climate, is being launched aboard a satellite today (27 August 2002).

Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget (GERB) is the first instrument that can measure the radiation balance from a geostationary orbit (ie. it will stay at the same point above the Earth.). It will be able to view an entire hemisphere of the Earth. Fast developing climate processes such as weather systems can have a large impact on the radiation balance. GERB’s orbit means that the measurements it takes are frequent enough to study these impacts for the first time. The instrument is part of the Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellite, which will be launched from Kourou in French Guiana at 23.30 hrs BST today.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has provided £6.4 million to fund the development of GERB and for the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) to process, distribute and archive the data from the instrument. GERB will be switched on in November and the first images will be relayed back to scientists at RAL a few days later.

Dr Jacqui Russell, Science Co-ordinator for the GERB project, says, ‘Climate change is an issue of vital concern for today’s society. Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, are altering the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere and affecting the radiation balance that drives our climate. We will learn much more about how our complex climate system behaves, and increase our ability to predict climate change by using GERB.’

Over the last decade the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has drawn on the expertise of scientists worldwide to gauge the level of human activity on global climate change. GERB will provide useful data that could feed into their policies. It will also be a valuable tool to help achieve the targets for sustainable development being discussed at the UN World Summit in Johannesburg this month.

Universities and research institutes investigating the impact of clouds, water vapour and aerosols on the climate will be able to make use of the data coming from GERB, as will the Met Office and other meteorological agencies. There is also potential for commercial use in issues relating to solar energy and agriculture.


Notes for editor

1.RAL is holding a launch event with live video links to the launch in Kourou. The event will start at 21.45 hrs BST. For more information on this event contact Anabelle Ménochet tel: 01235 446432 email: a.j.menochet@rl.ac.uk

2.GERB cost around £9 million and was mainly funded by the UK, Italy and Belgium. GERB has been designed and built by a European consortium led by the Central Laboratory for the Research Councils (CLRC) at RAL. The consortium includes:

  • CLRC
  • NERC
  • Federal Office for Scientific, Technical and Cultural Affairs, Belgium
  • Italian Space Agency
  • Imperial College of Science, Technology & Medicine, London UK
  • Royal Meterological Institute of Belgium
  • Hadley Centre, Met. Office, Bracknell, UK
  • University of Leicester, UK
  • National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, UK
  • AMOS and OIP, Belgium
  • Officine Galileo, Italy

3.Further GERB instruments, funded by the European Organisation for Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), will be flown on the next two MSG satellites. These will be launched in 2004/5 and 2007/8.

4.For more information contact :

Marion O’Sullivan, NERC Press Officer,
tel: 01793 411727, mobile 07946 812595, email: mjo@nerc.ac.uk
Jacky Hutchinson, CLRC Press Officer,
tel: 01235 446482, email: j.hutchinson@rl.ac.uk