Interview. A Toulouse engineer invents a device that will greatly improve the weather forecast

Toulouse-based Airbus defense and aerospace engineer Frederick Pasternak has developed a device capable of accurately detecting the formation of the atmosphere from space. An invention that allowed him to significantly improve the quality of weather forecasting as well as win the European Innovation Award 2022.

Mr. Pasternak, explain to us what is the discovery that allows you to be one of the three finalists for the European Innovation Award 2022 in the “Industry” category today?

I have designed an instrument called Iasi-NG. It is actually a complementary tool to the already used Infrared Sound Atmospheric Interferometer (IASI), and it specifically allows meteorologists to have specific data on the structure of the atmosphere, thanks to an infrared ray sent from a satellite before being reflected back to Earth. However, the interferometer had an error in distorting the captured radiation and therefore partially blurred the received message. So much information is lost along the way which can be very useful. So it was necessary to be able to create a tool that does not distort the return signal. This is what I was able to find out and what we later developed. It is a special prism, made with potassium bromide.

How much will this new device be able to improve the work of predictors?

It is difficult for me to give a precise percentage of what it will bring in terms of forecasting, but the data that will be obtained from the combination of atmospheres will be incomparable to what can be done now. We will know the details along the layer, the nature of the gas present or the amount of water vapor present at different heights. We can say that this will improve the forecast in a few days.

Will this information be obtained in real time?

Being on a satellite that scans the Earth at low altitudes (about 800 km), we will have atmospheric data from around the world for a period of 24 hours. Instant-t, it concerns an area of ​​more than ten kilometers wide. This aspect of the interferometer has also been improved over the ten years I have dedicated to this project.

In what other areas of skill would your innovation be useful?

This will prove invaluable in preventing natural disasters, be it floods or heat waves. It will also make it possible to follow the evolution of global warming in the long run, especially by improving the measurement of sea, ice and land temperatures, but also by allowing more reliable measurements of the gases responsible for atmospheric pollution.

When will this new device be operational?

We are working with various parties involved in the operation, to activate it in the near future. Tests are yet to be done, but it is planned to be incorporated into the satellite to be placed in orbit, for a take-off that should take place in 2024 from Cauro Base (Guyana). It will start-up, I hope, with permission, to confirm the promise made. There are plans for two more launches later.

Toulouse’s invention will greatly help meteorologists in their work.
Credit, Nanda Gonzag – Nanda Gonzag

On a more personal note, this innovation allows you to be among the three finalists for the European Innovation Award 2022 in your category, what does it mean to you?

This is important because getting there is not easy. And winning this award will symbolize the recognition of all work. Of course, I personally did a lot of work on this project, but it was something we ended up with a hundred people.

Who is Frederick Pasternak?

Frederick Pasternak studied aeronautical engineering and graduated from the Higher Institute of Aeronautics and Space (ISAE-SUPAERO). He joined Airbus in 1983 and spent the next four decades building optical instruments for large international aeronautical groups, such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and France’s Center National d’Etudes Spatialis (CNES). In 2007, he took over as head of the Department of Optical Instruments Studies at Airbus Defense and Space, where he is currently the Optical Instrumentation Technical Authority.

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