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New satellite is a game changer for weather forecasters

Posted at 4:35 PM, Feb 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-14 18:35:20-05

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared the new GOES-17 satellite operational this week and we’ll now be able to observe weather as never seen before from outer space. GOES-17 is the sister satellite to GOES-16 which became operational over the eastern United States in December of 2017. GOES-17 is in orbit over the western United States and will give forecasters incredible views of weather and other phenomena such as volcanic ash, dust and wildfire smoke. GOES-17, a geostationary satellite that is in orbit 22,000 miles above Earth, was launched into space March 1st of 2018. GOES-17 (GOES West) and GOES-16 (GOES East) are now working together to provide high-resolution satellite imagery and data for more than half the globe.

Map showing the geographical coverage of the GOES East and West satellites. (NOAA)

Map showing the geographical coverage of the GOES East and West satellites. (NOAA)

GOES-17 sees a thick plume of brown smoke from the Woolsey Fire in southern California on Nov. 13, 2018.

GOES-17 will provide detailed views of the Pacific Ocean that have never been possible. This will help forecasters determine the strength of storms crossing the Pacific and predict what kind of an impact these storms will have on the West Coast. For Hawaii, hurricane forecasts will greatly improve and advisories can be issued with more precision. GOES-17 has a Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) and will make it easier for forecasters to track thunderstorms and see where certain weather events are becoming more intense and threatening.

GOES-17 watches clouds form around Hawaii's Big Island on Jan. 15, 2019.

GOES-17 watches clouds form around Hawaii's Big Island on Jan. 15, 2019.

The GOES satellites are much more than just a weather satellite. The primary capabilities of the satellites include visible and infrared imagery, lightning mapping, space weather monitoring and solar imaging. All of these capabilities will provide scientists with much improved monitoring of Earth’s environment and ability to monitor space weather along with solar flare activity. The satellites are packed with advanced technology and instrumentation. Included is an Advanced Baseline Imager which is the primary instrument for imaging Earth’s weather. There are Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS) which detect and monitor solar irradiance in the upper atmosphere. A Geostationary Lightning Mapper is included along with a Magnetometer which measures magnetic fields in space. A Solar Ultraviolet Imager is also included and is a telescope that observes activity related to the sun such as solar flares. A Space Environmental In-Situ Suite (SEISS) is also onboard. SEISS is an array of sensors that monitor, proton, electron and heavy ion fluxes in the magnetosphere. This information helps assess radiation hazards to astronauts and satellites.

The GOES satellites will provide us with valuable weather images, forecasting data and be gathering space weather data for years. Over time, it will be interesting and fun to see what the GOES satellites are able to show and teach us about weather and what impacts our weather.

The satellite imagery we share with you, during our weathercasts on KGUN 9 On Your Side, are also a product of the GOES-17 imagery!