S'pore taps satellite signals to monitor air moisture in effort to better predict weather

SINGAPORE – Singapore is adopting a new method to better monitor the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, a move that could boost the weatherman’s ability to predict severe weather and thunderstorms amid climate change.

Unlike current methods that give limited and localised readings, the new method allows the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) to monitor moisture continuously throughout the entire atmosphere by using satellite signals.

As air moisture distribution in the atmosphere influences rainfall, the continuous stream of data could help the MSS better predict the weather, which is expected to turn erratic with global warming.

The new method, which will be used from late August, makes use of satellite signal readings from 10 so-called reference stations dotted across the island.

These ground stations receive satellite signals and are being used to help determine the positions of people and vehicles to make navigation more reliable.

Water vapour in the atmosphere causes delays in the time taken for satellite signals to reach the stations, hence the amount of moisture in the air can be determined by the time taken for signals to reach the stations.

The distribution of moisture in the atmosphere determines whether an air column is stable or unstable, said weather and climate scientist Koh Tieh Yong of the Singapore University of Social Sciences. An unstable air column leads to rain and storms, he explained.

MSS uses an islandwide network of sensors on the ground to measure air moisture near the surface of immediate areas around the sensors.

The MSS also releases a weather balloon twice a day to track conditions higher up in the atmosphere, up to 37km in the air. Its measurements of wind speed, temperature, air pressure and moisture can inform the MSS of the weather over large areas of the island.

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