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China to launch 2nd Olympic weather forecasting satellite in May
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China will launch a second Olympic weather forecasting satellite, the Fengyun-3 (FY-3), in May to provide more precise and longer range forecasts, a chief designer said on Tuesday.

The new satellite will provide accurate and timely information about weather changes to facilitate more precise weather forecasts during the Beijing Olympic Games set to open on Aug. 8, said Zhou Hongling, a designer from Shanghai and deputy to the First Session of the 11th National People's Congress opening on Wednesday.

She said assembly of FY-3 had been completed in Shanghai. "It has passed tests at the factory and is ready for delivery to the launching site, where it will undergo another two months of testing."

The new satellite, with a bigger payload, will provide medium-range weather forecasts up to 10 to 15 days, said Zhou. "It will replace the FY-1D weather forecasting satellite launched in May 2002 to provide primary services for the Games."

According to Zhou, short-range forecasts by existing Chinese weather satellites are partially to blame for the country's heavy losses in the severe winter weather that attacked most parts of central, southern and eastern China starting in mid January.

China Meteorological Administration (CMA) head Zheng Guoguang admitted earlier the country was unprepared that the chaos could last for more than 20 days. "It's extremely hard to tell the weather conditions more than a week away, given China's current forecasting capacity," he said.

China has launched eight meteorological satellites since research started in the 1970s. Its first Olympic weather forecasting satellite, the FY-2D, was launched towards the end of 2006.

The CMA has identified weather forecast services for the Olympic Games as "a priority" for this year as the country may face much more frequent adverse weather.

Yet Beijing's weather bureau said the possibility was only 0.4 percent for the city to experience weathers above 35 degrees centigrade during the Games, when the average temperature would be around 24.9 degrees centigrade.

(Xinhua News Agency March 5, 2008)

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