The GOES-R Series of Satellites is Revolutionizing Forecasting


For the first time in a generation, a new fleet of geostationary weather satellites is revolutionizing the way forecasters monitor the Earth’s atmosphere. Launched in November 2016, the GOES-R Series is a 14-satellite constellation that will provide improved spatial, spectral and temporal resolution never before available.

The GOES-R series includes the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), a state-of-the-art 16-band radiometer that will detect infrared radiant and reflected solar energy, as well as visible light. The ABI instrument has three times the spectral channels, four times the resolution and five times the scanning speed of previous GOES satellites (Table 1); see the colored contours in Figure 3 for the expected differences in spatial resolution for one of the ABI’s IR bands at the GOES-R geostationary altitude of 35,790 km (22,240 mi).

Another key component of the GOES-R series is the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), which will be able to detect both direct and scattered lightning from a swath of about 3,000 miles wide. GLM will complement ABI information for nowcasting and short-term forecasting of rapidly developing high-impact convective weather in regions with overlapping coverage. It will also contribute to the establishment of a lightning climatology for the Western Hemisphere, expanding on the characterization of thunderstorms and their hazards that were started by GOES-II and GOES-V (Goodman et al. 2012; Stano et al. 2014).

Both the ABI and GLM are designed to support National Weather Service forecasters at local offices, regional centers, and NOAA’s Hurricane Centers, Ocean Prediction Center, and Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers. For instance, the ten-minute full disk imagery provided by the GOES-R series will be essential in monitoring severe storms, tornadoes and volcanic ash plumes to ensure aviation safety.

GOES-R’s improved temporal cadence, along with its new spectral and spatial resolution, will allow meteorologists to detect even smaller features of the atmosphere. For example, GOES-R will be able to provide the first-ever images of a volcanic ash cloud in real-time, and its better-detailed imagery of storms and clouds will enable improved forecasting of wind speeds and lightning flashes.

In addition to the ABI and GLM, the GOES-R series will include a suite of other instruments to measure and monitor the Earth’s atmospheric environment. The Solar Ultraviolet Imager/Extreme UV Irradiance Sensors (EXIS) will detect and track solar flares that can affect communications and reduce navigational accuracy for satellites, high-altitude airplanes and power grids.

The GOES-R series also includes the Space Environment Monitor (SEM), which will observe changes in the near-Earth solar-terrestrial electromagnetic environment to help scientists understand and predict effects on Earth’s surface, atmosphere and ecosystem. The SEM instrument will have a solar diffuser, similar to the NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on its Terra and Aqua satellites, that can be used for radiometric calibration of the ABI visible and infrared bands. The Solar Terrestrial Interaction Modeling Sensor (STIMS) will help to identify the physics of solar-atmospheric phenomena and their impacts on Earth’s systems. Lastly, the Magnetometer will monitor the Earth’s magnetic field.