South Korea's Communication, Ocean and Meteorological Satellite (COMS) Cheollian-1 continuously hovers some 36,000 km above the equator, sending out weather data every 15 minutes.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) is now able to take full advantage of the satellite's capabilities through a new system inaugurated this Wednesday, May 17.
Dubbed the COMS Data Analysis System, the initiative is a joint project with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
24/7 imaging every 15 minutes
The COMS Cheollian-1's geosynchronous orbit above the equator means that it is in almost always in sight of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.
According to PAGASA administrator Dr. Vicente Malano, the agency's new COMS Data Analysis System enables practically constant weather monitoring via receiving stations in Metro Manila and Cebu.
"Mas frequent ang data na naibabato (ng COMS satellite) sa atin. Dati-dati, ang nakukuha nating data (sa ibang satellite) is every 30 minutes. Ngayon, every 15 minutes na lang," he said.
The system is particularly useful for the live monitoring of rainfall, fog, clouds, and large fires in the country, Malano said.
Complement to Project NOAH, Diwata-1
Malano also said that the COMS system complements and augments PAGASA's other tools, including Project NOAH and Diwata-1.
Project NOAH, for example, utilizes a network of sensors across the country whose range does not extend far offshore. Malano explained that the COMS satellite can augment this data by tracking weather disturbances long before they make landfall in the Philippines.
"Ang mga (ground-based) radar natin ay may capability of monitoring not more than 400 km away from the station. But itong satellite na ito, kahit nasa karagatan pa ang (weather disturbance) ay makukuha ng satellite ang hindi kaya ng radar," he said.
On the other hand, Diwata-1 and its upcoming sister satellite Diwata-2 utilize a different set of sensors and serve different functions to the COMS satellite.
"Ang Diwata is sun synchronous, okay yung resolution for research. But (the COMS satellite) is for monitoring," explained Dr. Vicente Palcon, COMS project proponent and PAGASA's counterpart focal person to KOICA.
Priority aid from South Korea
The COMS Data Analysis System is fully funded by KOICA and involves access to the COMS satellite as well as basic training for Filipino personnel.
"Wala tayong binabayarang subscription. Ang binibigay ng KOICA ay libre, kasama ang receiving facilities, computing system, at training," Malano said.
Shin Myung Seop, country director of KOICA's Philippine office, said that the COMS Analysis System was a priority aid initiative.
"(The Philippines) is one of the most advanced countries in implementing the shift from a reactive emergency response to a proactive risk reduction approach," he explained.
"The KOICA Philippine Office is making efforts towards the prioritization of the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Sector in our cooperation areas this year," he added. — GMA News